Through three games, the West Virginia Mountaineers know two things for certain: Leddie Brown is a good running back we can lean on and their defense is capable of being elite. That in of itself should lend the Mountaineers to having an identity of running the ball and letting the defense take over. Unfortunately, the offensive line, isn’t one where the team can lean on it to grind through teams right now. That leaves us with the passing game. The passing game has two options: become a killer offense that can put points on the point early to force teams to play from behind or be a no-mistake offense that just doesn’t hurt itself.
Personally, I am a fan of an offense that forces teams to play how you want to play. Its a personality thing. I don’t want to be passive and I don’t want to be timid. I want you to have to play the game I want it played. This works a lot of times because you can develop a gameplan that says we are looking to score early and then we know that this team is going to do this. We know how they plan to defend us and we can dictate this game.
There are downsides to this. These are 18-22 year old men. Mistakes are going to be made. With a “killer” mentality, more mistakes are likely to be made. Players are going to fumble down near the goalline. Kickers are going to miss kicks. Quarterbacks are going to throw interceptions. With a go-get-them offense, more of those mistakes can and will be made. And as any West Virginia fan knows, when those mistakes compound they can become an avalanche and no matter how good your defense is and no matter how good your running game is. And those losses can and often do you look bad.
The other option is to play it safe. I don’t like this but it absolutely works. With a more than capable running game and a great defense, this is like 2010. Now, I must ask that you take a moment and let the PTSD of the 2010 season not cloud your view. Much like the 2010 team, you can play to your strengths and much of that means not taking chances. If you get to the 40 yard line, you aren’t taking a shot downfield. You’re running the ball. If you have to punt, you don’t mind because a punt puts the ball inside the 10-yard line and now you can let your defense pin its ears back and go get the other team. Many teams, like the Kansas State Wildcats, have run this type of offensive gameplan and team, for years to many, many wins.
As always, there is a downside and with this type of team, you are asking young kids to be perfect. Raise your hand if you were perfect at 18 years old. Not a lot of hands up. Having to be perfect is how teams like Iowa State and other defensive teams typically have become really good defenses. They will simply let you go 3-5 yards a play because when you have to run 14 plays every time to score usually results in mistakes. Either players make a bad throw or coaches get greedy. When teams that usually play it safe and don’t make mistakes get behind, they can’t come back. That was the formula to beat Kansas State for years and it remains the formula for beating safe offenses.
The Mountaineers appear to be heading toward option two and I don’t blame them. I think it plays to their current strengths. Don’t ask Jarret Doege to win you games, just ask him to play within himself. Make good, strong throws. Ask your receivers to catch the ball. Don’t worry about YAC yards. If they come, great but make the catch first. Lean on Leddie Brown and let him eat and let him work. Tell your defense they get to dominate and if they give us a chance we’ll get a touchdown. Shorten the games. That should be the identity of the 2020 Mountaineers.