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What I Think After “Dropping” One in Lubbock

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The offense never could get ahead, the defense never got a chance to shine

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

*Checks calendar* Yes, it is still 2020 which means this is a new year and yet, the same old Mountaineers showed up. West Virginia came into Lubbock 3-1, looking for respect against a 1-3 Texas Tech Red Raiders foe and left with more questions than answers. This wasn’t as bad as the 2012 beatdown, but it was still disheartening.

Doege Isn’t The Problem, But He Is

It is really unfair of me to put blame on Jarret Doege when he threw for 347 yards and a touchdown and had his receivers drop 7 or 8 passes, many which would have extended drives, but he isn’t without fault. He missed open receivers many times and while he may have had tough throwing windows (over the shoulder to the outside in the window of a Cover 2) it is one that you expect a P5 quarterback to be able to make. He missed that throw a lot.

He also showed that making the throw to the outside hash is not something he can do right now. He was nearly picked off on that throw and another time he just could not get the ball there in time. That is a NFL throw and not one everyone can make. From Saturday’s tape, it looks like Doege can’t make that throw. It unfortunately limits the teams playcalling.

Some of y’all got mad when I said it was Leddie Brown and 10 other guys on offense, saying the offensive line was the one opening the holes, yet the offensive line is the same line that is letting Doege get blasted and letting guys run free.

The Receivers Are The Problem, But They Aren’t

West Virginia now has 16 drops on the season, which leads the FBS. Not much to say about that because it is not just Sam James or Bryce Ford-Wheaton. It was also Sean Ryan. It was also TJ Simmons. It was everyone on the team and those drops are a serious problem. Still, the receivers are getting free. They are making plays. They are capable of clearing a defense. You also have to wonder if our emphasis on being a great running team after being so bad last year may have worked against our receivers.

Leddie Brown Can’t Do It All

Brown finished with 77 yards rushing, 47 yards receiving and 144 total yards. He ran the ball 21 times. Sinkfield and Winston Wright ran 7 times combined. When Leddie is in the game, its 50/50 but maybe a run up the middle. When Leddie isn’t in the game, its a pass. This has been Neal Brown’s MO as a play-caller. He prefers one back do most of the lifting, which likely fits Leddie’s style. It allows Leddie to continue to get stronger as games go on. Still, he can’t be the only running back producing. Brown has already run the ball 102 times. In 2016 when the Mountaineers featured a power-run game with the quarterback, they ran the ball over 200 times with Wendell Smallwood. Every other year in the Dana Holgorsen era, they ran the ball less than 200 times with their feature back and typically had two backs with over 100 carries. This kept the backs healthy.

The Defense

All week we got “#1 Defense! #1 Defense!” and then the defense does...not bad but definitely not great. The defense allowed a backup quarterback, backup wide receivers, backup running back and backup tackles to dominate and do what they needed to do. They had one takeaway and they held the Red Raiders to 348 total yards and 169 passing yards, but then allowed the Red Raiders to run for 179 yards. Worst, they didn’t impact the game.

They caused a fumble at the start of the second half which allowed the offense to tie the game, then immediately allowed a penalty-aided 9 play drive to give Tech the lead again. If this defense is so good, its need to be more impactful and it can’t let the offense dictate the game, especially a game like Saturday. This defense needs to take over and it has to take over when games are close, not when they have a lead.

The Offense

Two major points on this offense. I still, after 17 games have no idea what our offensive identity is and what we want to do. I have a semblance of an idea, run the ball with Leddie Brown until he dies from exhaustion, but I have no idea what our overall cohesive play actually is. Are we trying to be a methodical, slower paced team that can exploit you for overloading the box? Are we a tempo team that will run the ball? I have no idea. It seems like we went into NCAA picked single-back offense and just mash buttons on every play.

Second, this offense has to give this defense some room to breathe. Every damn time the defense gave us a fighting chance the offense squandered it. The defense has to do better but this offense can’t just be a spectator at its own games. Somebody has to make a play and it can’t be Leddie all the time. I dont know how you fix the drops but at the same time, someone needs to fight and find a spark to give us a lead to let the defense work and right now its not happening.