How’s that for a palate cleanser, gang? Were there some fortuitous bounces? Sure. Were we due some of those? Ab-so-F!$#-ing lutely. The bigger story there IMO is the fact that our offense seized the carp and turned most of those opportunities into points. That’s something we’ve struggled with this year, and credit to Real Deal Neal and Co for flipping the script there.
And speaking of RDN, go ahead and dance your dance buddy. There’s a disappointingly significant portion of our fan base that are actively rooting for the guy to fail, and some of their criticisms are fair, but the guy was aggressive from the opening kick and called an absolute gem of a game. Shooters shoot, Neal, and you a shooter.
Date: November 4th, 2023
Kickoff: 7:00PM EST
Where: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium - Morgantown, WV
A special time in a special place with RDN and your Primetime Mountaineers.
Streaming: Fox Sports app
Radio: Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG (Radio Affiliates) | WVU Gameday App (Apple | Android)
Radio Announcers: Tony Caridi (PBP), Dwight Wallace (analyst), and Jed Drenning (sideline)
Reminder: It is against site policy to post links to illegal streams in the comments.
Spread: West Virginia -10
ML: WVU +300
Haven’t seen any props yet, but I reallllly like this matchup for the good guys.
Clear - high 63/45 low - Wind 6 mph
A perfectly clear, crisp fall evening for a football game.
Where are they from: Provo, UT. Looking forward to making the return trip at some point.
All-time Series: 1-0. Start as you mean to go on.
The Last Time We Played: West Virginia 35-32 BYU. Skylar and the Boys outlasted BYU in a one-off neutral site game at FedEx Field back in 2016.
Head coach: Kalani Sitake (8th season, 61-37). I don’t think there’s a card-carrying member of Mountaineer Nation who wouldn’t sign up for Sitake’s record of success at BYU - basically, win 7 or 8 games most years with a down year and two great years in every 5-year cycle. He’s won 9, 4, 7, 7, 10, 11, and 8 in his seven full seasons in Provo. BYU loads up, develops, wins, then reloads and does it all over again. Admirable.
2023 record: 5-3 (0-4). I hate to say it, but this might just be the most fraudulent 5-3 team I’ve come across this year. These dudes are getting outscored and outgained on average this season and post-game win probability numbers put them at 2.9 wins. And yet, here they are at 5. There’s something to that, I suppose, but there’s no way it’s sustainable.
WOMEN LIE, MEN LIE, NUMBERS DON’T
2.7 - Yards per carry on early downs for BYU this year, the worst number in FBS. That’s 2.6 on first (last) and 2.76 on second (128th). Not good.
15 - Big time throws from Kedon Slovis this year, good for 2nd in the Big 12. He’s one of only two guys in the conference who have more than Garrett Greene this year.
8.8% - TWP rate for Slovis when he’s pressured this year, the 14th highest mark among P5 quarterbacks with more than 100 dropbacks this year. It’s critical that we get after him this weekend.
18 - Turnovers generated by the Cougs this year, tied for most in the Big 12 and 3rd nationally. They’ve forced at least 2 in every game this year except Kansas. Can’t give em any cheap ones this weekend.
3.4 - Tackles for loss per game in conference play for the Cougs, good for 127th nationally. A low havoc bunch.
33 - Explosive runs allowed by BYU in 189 carries vs B12 opponents this year, a 17.5% rate. Getable. Ripe.
120 - Missed tackles for BYU this year, by far the worst number in the Big 12. For context: Kansas (101) and Houston (102) are the only other teams in the conference over 100, and overall the Cougs’ 42.1 PFF tackle grade is the 5th worst in FBS. Donaldssaince Part Deux?
54% - 3rd down conversions allowed by the BYU defense in conference play this year, good for 14th in the B12 and 129th nationally. Coincidentally...
57% - 3rd down conversion rate for West Virginia in our three games in October, good for 3rd nationally. May have something there.
WHEN WE HAVE THE BALL - MORE OF THAT, PLEASE
Mountaineers to Watch: QB6 Garrett Greene, RB4 CJ Donaldson, RB22 Jaheim White, WR2 Rodney Gallagher, TE87 Kole Taylor
Cougs to Watch: DE92 Tyler Batty, DE93 Blake Mangelson, LB10 AJ Vongphachanh, CB5 Eddie Heckard
I’m not convinced that BYU’s defense is actually any good, but you do have to concede that they do a couple of things really well (create turnovers, red zone D) and have generally played well enough in spots for the Cougs to win their 5 games. They have some dudes up front especially that’re playing really solid football, with Tyler Batty, Blake Mangelson, and Isaiah Bangah all grading out as top 15 edge players in the Big 12, and a corner in Eddie Heckard who’s grading out in the top 15, as well. The problems for them are at the second level, where the linebackers especially feel like they’re playing below average football. All four dudes in the rotation are grading out in the bottom half of the Big 12, and starters AJ Vongphachanh and Max Tooley have missed 25 tackles and allowed completions on 30 of 38 targets. You’ll recall that this was an issue for UCF, as well, so look for it to be something we try to take advantage of again.
Speaking of which, if we’re going to blame Neal Brown for bad snaps, missed throws, and dropped passes, then we definitely need to give him credit for the gameplan and play calling against UCF because it was absolutely gorgeous. We were aggressive, played with rhythm, mixed up the tempo, set plays up, schemed dudes open, and executed well. Just a pleasure to watch. Here’s the deal, though - now that I know we have that in us, that’s all that I want. I’ve had a taste and am jonesing for more, and while I know that every team won’t offer as friendly a matchup as UCF, the way we played will cause problems for everybody left on our schedule. Garrett Greene is simply too good and too dangerous, and the young core of playmakers are complimenting him extremely well.
So. More of that please. More of that modern triple option stuff where we get Greene on the edge and give him option to run or throw. More Jaheim. More Rodney. And of course, more CJ. There’s no reason to reign anything in now that we know what these dudes can look like with the throttle open.
WHEN THEY HAVE THE BALL - DOMINATE EARLY DOWNS
Cougs to Watch: QB10 Kedon Slovis, RB27 LJ Martin, WR2 Chase Roberts, WR5 Darius Lassiter, TE83 Isaac Rex
Mountaineers to Watch: DE91 Sean Martin, DE3 Tomi Durojaiye, LB1 Lee Kpogba, CB11 Beanie Bishop
I’m struggling to find anything good to say about BYU’s offense here, gang, but here goes. Remember in 2019 when we had the worst offense in modern program history and couldn’t run the ball or create explosive plays or score points or do anything? That group compares favorably to BYU this year, especially since conference play has started. A quick side-by-side for those who think I’m being hyperbolic (FBS ranking in parentheses):
Simply put, BYU hasn’t been able to run the ball, they’re not explosive, they’re not efficient, they don’t convert 3rd downs, and they allow a ton of negative plays. On paper it looks like a group that we should have in second and third and long all day, at which point we can get down to paying Kedon Slovis back properly for the comments he made ahead of the Brawl last year.
Jokes aside, pressuring Slovis really does feel crucial in a comfortable outcome here. The guy isn’t much more than a replacement level game manager, but he has shown the ability to push the ball down the field to a big, physical group of pass catchers when kept clean. We can’t give him that opportunity. PFF shows his pass grade, completion percentage, and turnover-worthy play numbers all falling off a cliff when pressured, so let’s muddy up the pocket and make the dude uncomfortable.
X-FACTOR - 6s NOT 3s
One area where BYU’s defense has
gotten lucky played well this year is in the red zone, with their 72% scoring rate (18th) and 50% touchdown rate (28th) in conference both ranking in the top 30 nationally. I expect us to move the ball on these guys, and the one of the only paths I can see for them hanging around and making it a game is us not being able to convert those opportunities into touchdowns.
3 out of 10. Both the on-field matchups and the spot - 7pm culture shock game for a team that’s considerably worse on the road - favor us. IDGAF about night game BYU or anything like that, there are absolutely no excuses here.
I’m setting myself up for an all-time let down here, but I really feel like we were built to play this team. We’re just a bad matchup for them on both sides of the ball. Their defense is UCF with turnovers, and their offense is straight cheeks. Add in the Slovis effect, and, well... ain’t no way we’re losing to that nerd twice.