Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The Mountaineers had too many self-inflicted wounds to overcome on Saturday and lost to a team that didn’t feel more talented, just more disciplined. In what was a great example of why “raw” stats don’t paint the full picture, West Virginia outgained the Wildcats 345 to 299 and picked up an additional five first downs. But context matters in football and West Virginia lost on the game’s most important plays and had too many critical mistakes on the routine ones. I think very similarly to Oklahoma State a week ago, Kansas State just played a sound game and let the Mountaineers beat themselves. Sitting at 4-6, the Mountaineers have Kansas and a team that lost to Kansas left on the schedule, needing both to go down as wins for a chance to go bowling. Let’s look at the numbers.
Take a look at the analytic scoreboard above. It’s hard to find many nice things to say when you look at these stats. The Mountaineers outgained the Wildcats in raw offensive yards, but if you look at the available yard percentage you can see that the Kansas State offense moved the ball much better. West Virginia was absolutely dominated in the field possession game with the offense starting an average 22 yards worse than the Kansas State offense. West Virginia wasn’t as efficient on 1st down, couldn’t convert on the crucial 3rd and 4th downs, and turnovers reared their ugly head again. Despite all of these things going wrong for the Mountaineers, the opportunities were there. By looking at “opportunities”, or drives that reach the opponent’s 40-yard line, you can assess how well a team took advantage of their scoring chances. On six opportunities, the Mountaineers only cashed in two touchdowns and a field goal. It’s nearly impossible to win a football game going -3 in turnovers, losing the field position game by 22 (!!!) yards, and producing fewer points per opportunity than your opponent.
I’ve displayed all season that the offense can have great success when the offensive line plays well and gives Doege time to throw. After this game, I’m left scratching my head because the offensive line put up their best pass-block rating of the season (Brandon Yates and Doug Nester were particularly great) but the passing grade was well below average. It’s tough to win games when your starting running back and quarterback receive PFF grades of 53 or below. I was encouraged by Kaden Prather’s contributions, earning the second-highest offensive grade for the Mountaineers (Doug Nester was the top). This offense just hasn’t been able to produce consistently this season. A touchdown in the middle of the 3rd quarter ended a drought of 108 minutes where the Mountaineers didn’t get into the endzone. Ouch.
One thing that stood out to me from Neal Brown this weekend was the decision to kick the long field goal early in the 2nd quarter. I felt that it made a lot more sense to go for a 4th and 3 than try the long field goal, and the decision bot came to the same conclusion with a “medium” recommendation to go for it. On the drive earlier, Neal elected to go for a 4th and 6 from the Kansas State 29, which the decision bot actually had labeled as a toss-up. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to go for the first 4th down and then kick on the second where the kick is longer and the conversion would be shorter.
This felt like an obvious go for it situation...the bot agrees https://t.co/I2jX7VXVtu— Joel (@WVStatsGuy) November 13, 2021
West Virginia needs to beat both Texas and Kansas to become bowl eligible. Right now, SP+ gives the Mountaineers a 40% chance to win both, so not all hope is lost yet. This weekend will feature a “bowl elimination” game. Both Texas and WVU sit at 4-6, so loser will end their bowl hopes with a loss.
This weekend I decided to tackle the question surrounding WVU’s trend of spending timeouts in situations where the clock is not a factor. Does West Virginia really do this more than most teams? Based on my analysis, yes. Since Neal Brown took over at West Virginia, the Mountaineers 1.6 timeouts/game outside of the final four minutes in a half. That’s the second-worst amount in the Big 12 during that time span. You can look at the Big 12 numbers and WVU-only breakdown in my tweet below.
I looked into how WVU has used its timeouts in the Neal Brown era. I decided that a timeout in the final 4 minutes of a half is for "time-saving" and any other timeout is "unnecessary". West Virginia is the second-worst in the league since 2019 at spending unnecessary TOs pic.twitter.com/V07VlaAlp1— Joel (@WVStatsGuy) November 15, 2021