West Virginia received the ball first on Saturday and executed an 11 play, 64-yard drive that resulted in a field goal. If you were only interested in watching the Mountaineer offense, you should have turned the TV off right there. As Neal Brown put it, the Oklahoma State defense “consumed” the West Virginia offense. The offense gained 48% of their total yards on the first drive and was entirely stagnant the rest of the game. While the offensive performance was disappointing, you must credit the stingy Oklahoma State defense who starts nine seniors and two juniors. The Cowpokes defense ranks in the top five nationally in many metrics, including third in Defensive Beta Rank and fourth in Defensive Fremeau Efficiency Index (DFEI). While this performance by the Mountaineers was disappointing, there is still much to play for and better matchups ahead for the final three games of the season. Let’s check out the numbers.
Let’s start with the bad news. The offense got buried on Saturday. After a promising opening drive, nothing went right for this unit. No matter what way you slice it, the numbers are damning. The West Virginia offense only picked up 17.9% of available yards (yikes!), converted on a mere 3/17 attempts on 3rd and 4th down, and had success on 1st down less than one out of four times. Oklahoma State’s defense is legit and they showed it. They are experienced, well-coached, and physical. I think the very first play of the game exemplifies how the day went, as shown below by Jed Drenning.
Part of playing physical D is pushing the envelope to see what ya can get away with ... First snap of the game: WVU max protects & tries to slip Prather on a post to start things off w/a shot play. Instead of dropping into his zone, watch safety Kolby Harvell-Peel plug the route. pic.twitter.com/LMFz3aH1Lo— Jed Drenning (@TheSignalCaller) November 7, 2021
As I’ve mentioned all season, Doege is a solid quarterback when given time, but under pressure he wilts. This was on full display Saturday. The Oklahoma State pass rush terrorized the offensive line all day tallying eight sacks. Doege dropped back to pass 33 times and was “under pressure” on 17 of those attempts (51.5%). What’s worse, Oklahoma State only brought a blitz on three dropbacks. Even without sending extra men, OSU dominated the line of scrimmage and made Saturday hell for Doege and the offense. Doege had been especially good on the deep ball the last two weeks but there was no hope for a play that long to develop with an intact pocket. Doege only threw two balls more than 10 yards downfield, both of which were incomplete. The offense was more lateral than it was forward, and the Cowboys swarmed and closed the gaps quickly.
Who’s to blame for this offensive performance? Pretty much everyone. Per PFF, Doege had nearly his worst game of the season, the offensive line had their worst pass-block grade of the season, and the running backs graded out lower than they had all year. I don’t think it would have mattered who on the roster was in at QB, RB, or WR; every unit got dominated by a talented veteran group and the lack of production is equally shared across the offense. The good news, as Niteshare mentioned in his article “What I Think After Another Oklahoma State Loss”, is that there are greener pastures ahead for the final three games; while Oklahoma State ranks 9th nationally in sack percentage, Kansas State and Texas rank 56th and 107th respectively. Even better, all three of WVU’s remaining opponents rank in the bottom 10 nationally in completion percentage allowed.
Though it felt like this was was a very one-sided game, respect must be given to the Mountaineer defense because they played well enough to give this team a chance. The defense had the lowest available yards allowed of their season and held the Pokes to only four conversions on 14 attempts on 3rd and 4th down. The defense only allowed 1.8 points per drive which is especially impressive when you consider that the Pokes had an average starting field position of their own 37 for their 13 drives. The one glaring letdown from the defense was tackling, posting an abysmal 39.2 PFF grade as a team in the category (graded from 0-100), the worst of their season by far. The Oklahoma State offense wasn’t explosive or overly impressive by any stretch of the imagination. It felt more like a slow but steady force. They controlled the field position game (thanks to the defense) and took advantage when they had opportunities to strike.
Let’s be honest. Oklahoma State was the better team Saturday and they are probably the better team in general. It was a bad matchup and a bad performance by the Mountaineers. Let’s flush it and move on. Three games left: Kansas State, Texas, and Kansas. The Mountianeers need to find two wins in the next three to go bowling this offseason. According to FPI, WVU’s chance of winning each game is 37.4%, 39.6%, and 92.8% respectively. This week versus Kansas State isn’t necessarily a must-win, but a loss would put tremendous pressure on the following week’s showdown versus the Longhorns (4-5), who will also be fighting for a their bowl chances.