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Could Harrell’s offense hinder West Virginia’s defense?

More plays on offense could mean worse plays on defense

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 23 West Virginia Spring Game Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We are closing in on two weeks before the West Virginia Mountaineers will begin prepping for the Pitt Panthers when they open the 2022 season on September 1st, at Heinz Field Acrisure Stadium. The Mountaineers will be looking to determine a quarterback and begin repping him while installing a new offense. The installation of a new offense is a welcome change as the past three years have been a stagnant representation of the type of offenses many fans have been accustomed to seeing in their decade in the Big 12.

While a better, more vertical offense is the hope that is being installed, I am left to wonder if this could have a negative effect on the defense.

Last year, the Mountaineers averaged 21 points per game on offense over 67 plays per game. The Mountaineers were very balanced, averaging 33 rushes per game and 34 passes per game. Defensively, the team allowed 25 points per game over 64 plays. Teams leaned on the run against the Mountaineers, rushing 35 times to 29 passes per game.

The top 5 offenses in the conference scored at least 30 points per game and if the team is going to get over the expectations of a .500 ball club it is going to have to score 30 points per game in order to compete in some of these games. So let’s look and see what happens when they score at least 30 points per game.

Last year the Mountaineers scored 30+ points in three games against FBS opponents: Iowa State, Texas, and Kansas. They won all three, but how exactly did the defense fare?

Against Iowa State, the Mountaineers scored a season-high 38 points but gave up 31 points on 64 plays for 424 yards. They allowed 7 yards per rush.

Against Texas, the Mountaineers scored 31 points but gave up 23 points on 58 plays for 355 yards. They allowed 7.3 yards per rush.

Against Kansas, the Mountaineers scored 34 points but gave up 28 points on 59 plays for 336 yards. They allowed 7.8 yards per pass.

Those three teams averaged 60 plays per game. They averaged 371 yards per game. They averaged 27.3 points per game.

What we see is that the Mountaineers gave up 1.5 more points per game, while allowing their same yardage on 4 fewer plays.

A lot of this research surprised me. I expected, based on the results of the Iowa State game, that the defense would be worse the more they were on the field and the more the offense scored. Iowa State was not a very good game for the defense, yet, looking at the whole, the defense did not fare much worse despite the uptick in offensive production. A lot of that can be attributed to the fact that Brown was conscious in his efforts to control the clock. Iowa State, Texas, and Kansas all had the ball for less than 30 minutes and the Mountaineers controlled the games and the tempo. This helped to slow down the teams and keep them from wearing out the defense.

Assuming Brown is able to manage the clock while Harrell manages the offense, look for the Mountaineers to score more points in 2022 and hold teams in the mid-20s. These may be the steps needed to see the team reach 8 or more wins.