Let me talk to ya.
I said last week that I was firing up the grill and preparing to eat crow, but that I wasn’t quite there yet. I’m chowing down now. I was wrong about this team. I have no qualms about stating that I was wrong. For four years, this team was not good enough for whatever reason, from being young on the offensive line to quarterbacks not working out, to losing key transfers due to NIL and COVID, for whatever reason, the first four years were not good enough. It was hard to believe that anything would be different this year because the coaches told us they would be. I’m a big believer in show me, don’t tell me and I hadn’t be shown that things were going to be better, but now, now you’ve shown me.
There is no taking away this win against TCU. I can rationalize that Pitt is just a bad football team. I can rationalize that Texas Tech entered the game with their starter, who got hurt and had to play their backup while the rain made passing a complete nightmare. Both of those wins have a “but” associated with them. There is none after last night’s win. Last night sealed the deal.
Let’s start with the defense and I’m going to talk to some “PEOPLE” since words got thrown at me and I have never been one to back off or shut up. I know high level people read this and I know people have been upset that I specifically have been not impressed with the defense. Again, I don’t take it back and I’ve got numbers to prove it if you wanna talk to me. HOWEVER, the defense is winning games. There is no denying it now. The defense is a dawg and being a dawg starts at the top. Jordan Lesley deserves all the pepperoni rolls. Last year the Mountaineers could not seem to generate enough pressure and when a big third down came up the other team converted. The pass defense was atrocious and we weren’t bringing down anyone behind the line of scrimmage, but all of that has changed this year. You finally see the pieces that have been talked about for years making plays. The defensive line comes at you in waves and teams are now forced to pick their poison. They want to go fast because it neutralizes the defensive line but you have to convert plays. When you don’t convert plays, you are stuck without the ball. Quarterbacks are under constant pressure and we aren’t blitzing a ton. We’re sending 4-5 man units and just collapsing pockets.
This is what I’ve been looking for. The collapsing pockets mean quarterbacks are no longer just waiting for guys to get open and then hitting a guy 30-40 yards downfield as the defensive backs are confused because they had to cover for 8 seconds. Now our defensive backs are playing closert to the receivers and we’re seeing them make plays. We may need to buy them stick’em after they dropped 5 interceptions <insert Lee Corso NCAA saying of “thats why he plays corner and not receiver”> but now they are making plays. Breaking up passes means teams aren’t looking at short down and distances and it becomes a self-fulling drive. Get a stop on first down, stop a run on second down and now its 3rd and long. Pin your ears back and get after it. Its FUN.
I feel justified, much like most of Mountaineer Nation who has been clamoring for Greene to start that his energy, fire, charisma, moxie, gumption fearlessness and leadership have been what this offense has been lacking.
I’ll follow Garrett Greene into battle pic.twitter.com/4xiDWRwwva— James (@mountaineerjdub) October 1, 2023
Greene is a ginger, because only gingers act like that <fellow gingers unite>. Give me a quarterback who is the first one yelling at a defensive player. Greene still isn’t the best passer, but he did finish the second half going 5/7. He’s not a perfect QB, his soft touch passes are going to be an adventure but he has the arm strength to rifle the ball in there and seems to be finding his accuracy to allow the receivers to run after the catch and furthermore, we saw what many of us want out of Greene, him going through progressions before taking off. That stuff comes with time and experience and his first touchdown was a prime example of it.
Welcome to being known Mr. Donaldson. CJ Donaldson for the second straight game has rushed for under 100 yards, under 4 yards per carry and last night, did not even break off a 10-yard run. For comparison sake, last year Donaldson had three games under 4 YPC, three games under 100 yards and only one game without at least a 10-yard run, and that game was against Texas when he only got 4 carries. He’s now matches his carries from last year, but last year he had 526 yards, 8 touchdowns and a 6.0 YPC average at this time. This year he’s at 348 yards, a 4.0 YPC average and only 4 touchdowns. Some of it looks like playcalling, with us calling more stretch plays for Donaldson rather than the inside plays that work best with his style. Some of it could simply be that teams are loading up to stop Donaldson at all costs. When he is in, teams focus solely on him. It may be time to use Donaldson as a decoy, at least until teams stop focusing on him only.
Rushing Offense and the Schedule
We now see what West Virginia is going to be. We are going to run the ball. We are going to run the ball. And then, we’re going to run the ball. So, what does that mean moving forward, because if we have to play Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Ohio State and Michigan, all of whom are built to stop the run, we’re screwed.
<Goes to the internet>
@ Houston - 13th in conference in rush defense (163 YPG)
v Oklahoma State - 8th in conference in rush defense (137 YPG)
@ UCF - 12th in conference rush defense (156 YPG)
vs BYU - 11th in conference rush defense (152 YPG)
@ Oklahoma - 4th in conference rush defense (105 YPG)
vs Cincinnati - 3rd in conference rush defense (100 YPG)
@ Baylor - 14th in conference rush defense (184 YPG)
We avoid the #1 (Kansas State), #2 (Texas) and #7 (Iowa State) defenses, while playing the bottom 4 defenses.
This should bode well for us to continue to push and drain clock, wear on teams and win games.
Neal Brown and this Style
Ok Neal, you’ve convinced me that you can win games with this style. Since this is my article and column, I’m still not the biggest fan of the style. I do not like “keep it close and win it in the 4th”. I feel like that gives the other team too many opportunities to beat you and to be honest, it feels very small, Conference USA we’re not as good as these teams mentality. I don’t like that. I don’t mind the rushing attack. I don’t mind ball control. I would prefer that we wear teams down and as we get into the 4th quarter you can see teams quit. Go back and watch Oklahoma-WVU 2014. I remember that game because we hit Oklahoma in the mouth for 3 quarters and when the 4th quarter came we got really tired of getting hit and all of sudden the runs because 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 19 yards runs. We did not like having to continue to hit and hit and hit and hit and hit and hit. If we’re going to be a running team, I want to see us wear teams down. I want to see teams have that fire go out in their eyes and you just keep calling 24 ISO, gaining 5 yards and they can’t stop it.
The defense is keeping you in games. I hope you can start gaining leads and stretching leads. Let’s turn a 3-point lead into a 10-point lead. Turn a 10-point lead into a 17-point lead. Thats where I want to get and be. Let’s not play “not to lose” or to keep it close, let’s go out there and start stepping on bodies. I’m on board. I’m willing to let you guide this ship, now let’s start being the big dawgs and putting bodies in pastures.