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West Virginia Football: A Look At Not So Official Stats Heading Into Mid-Season

Our official stats guy is back with a look at the stats that have mattered the most through the first half of the season, and what to look for against Oklahoma State.

TCU v West Virginia Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Hey guys! It’s been a while -- but life is crazy at times and I’ve been unable to get pen to paper until now, so my apologies. - AF

Since our last edition, a lot has happened! Three Big 12 games are in the books with five more to go. There has been a lot of discussion about whether or not the Mountaineers are “real.” I think they have and I think the stats bear that out in some key areas.

This week’s edition will take a dive into these stats. So without further preamble: through our first six games here have been the important Stats That Matter:

  1. 17.6 Points Per Game The #Dawgs under Tony Gibson are holding some of the most prolific offenses in college football (TCU, Texas Tech) to a number good enough to rank 15th in the nation, and second best in the Big XII behind Baylor, whose schedule is somewhere above the one Braxton County High School (Go Eagles) plays. For reference in 2015-16, WVU ranked 44th in the same category, allowing 24.6 points per game.
  2. 9 Sacks Allowed One of the biggest improvements from 2015-16 has been the unheralded efforts of the offensive line (and Skyler Howard) to avoid sacks. Last season, WVU ranked near the bottom of the conference and the nation, allowing 32 sacks through 13 games and in a three-way tie for 90th overall. This year has been different. Howard has been allowed more time in the pocket and more time to throw. Even more interesting is that he was sacked at a much higher rate last season despite WVU’s offense being heavier on the run (through six games, we’re averaging 206.5 yards/game on 43 avg. rushes versus 228.3 yards/game on 48 average rushes last year).
  3. 36 Penalties for 336 Yards. Another largely untold part of WVU’s 6-0 start has been avoiding mistakes with costly penalties, and through six games that’s good enough for 24th in the country for fewest penalties. It’s even more of a story when you consider that over the last two years, WVU has been among the worst in the nation in this category (2015: 90th, 87 penalties for 910 yards; 2014: 95th, 85 penalties for 757 yards.)
  4. 52% Pass Efficiency Defense. This is a number where in pure, raw statistics WVU is slightly behind last year's team (51% in 2015 through 13 games) but is ranked much higher (12th nationally versus 31st) and more importantly the secondary was not expected to be a major strength for WVU coming into the season. Given pre-season expectations of the secondary combined with a number of injuries and suspensions, “holding serve” on this statistic really does pop out at you.

Looking Ahead: I think we can conclusively say that this WVU team has improved and executed in ways that previous iterations of Dana Holgorsen's teams have not -- or at least haven’t all at once. That said, the Cowboys of Okie Lite are not exactly light weights. Outside of the the incredibly bizarre play at the end of regulation against Central Michigan, Coach Gundy’s squad has been very solid. So here are the stats to keep an eye on as the game unfolds:

  1. Turnovers: In their loss to Baylor early in the season, Okie Lite turned the ball over 4 times. That’s roughly half their turnovers for the whole season. Last year in Morgantown, the game turned on a couple of fortuitous bounces going the Cowboy’s way.
  2. Rushing Yards: The Cowboy rushing attack ranks near the bottom of the NCAA and they lean on Mason Rudolph’s arm to move the ball. Conversely, their defense has also been shaky on defense, ranking 82nd nationally. Look to see if WVU can establish a run and shorten the game like they did against TCU, while OK Lite is forced to throw against tight coverage.
  3. Holgs Hair vs Gundy’s Mullet No commentary, really.