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The Film Room: West Virginia's Cheeky 3rd Down Playcalling

A subtle route combination was on full display Saturday for the nation's 2nd ranked 3rd down offense..

Ye faithful readers will surely remember the article I wrote this spring about ways we needed to improve to reach our potential in 2018. Chief among those areas ripe for improvement was our 3rd down efficiency on offense, where we finished 111th nationally in 2017. At the time I suggested that recommitting to the running game might alleviate some of our woes, and while we seem to have done that, it's actually been some adjustments in our passing game that appear to be paying the biggest dividends. Let's take a quick look at a couple of examples of how we attacked 3rd and manageable on Saturday. Credit to @skydesignsgfx for the original video.

Four different plays, three different players, same route combo, same result. There's not much to them - they're just simple out routes behind a vertical release on the outside - but we've been absolutely slaying with this concept in short yardage situations this year. There's simply too many things for the other team to worry about, and not enough time to worry about them all. There's our running game, which is potent enough that the defense's first thought in 3rd and less-than-5 is always going to be run. That freezes defenders for a split-second after the snap, and considering how quickly the routes develop, that's more than enough to ensure a clean pocket for Will to throw from. Then there's the fact that our quarterback has been arguably the most accomplished downfield passer in the country over the past two seasons, which means the defense has to be wary of that threat, as well. Then there are the receivers themselves, who's skill sets all but guarantee the few yards of cushion necessary to complete the pass and move the chains. Simple, efficient, and effective, and exactly the kind of development we needed to see from an offense that was far too boom-or-bust last year. These types of plays aren't going to score touchdowns, but Spavs’ willingness to call a slightly more efficient game and Will’s willingness to simply take what’s there are going to continue to be huge as the season rolls on.