Special Teams ‘Hit Or Miss’ Next WVU Concern

West Virginia linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo (7) fights to defeat a double team block

In most every first game, there are areas of play that exceed expectations and stand out as pleasant surprises. There are also just as often one or two that draw a reaction of ‘Well, that needs some work.’ So it was in West Virgnia’s 56-10 win over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.

First, a good note. After months of off-season questions about the running game, which was underwhleming in 2019, Neal Brown’s 2020 squad showed reason for optimism with 329 ground-game yards on 51 carries. The average of 6.5 yards per attempt was also impressive, coming even as it did against the woebegone Colonels.

That had to be a relief to head coach Neal Brown, who understandably had grown a bit weary of questions about the run game over the course of the last year. There’s more to be proved, especially against the better competition coming up, but after having to discuss a 2019 shortcoming so many times, it’s fair to highlight the showing the Mountaineeers put up in the ground game.

The matching 123-yard totals of Leddie Brown and Alec Sinkfield were also encouraging in another way — that is, the methods in which they were attained. Brown showed the power that highlights his style, while Sinkfield slashed and cut in highlighting his speed.

On the flip side, though, there was a showing that was average at best — or in the words of head coach Neal Brown, “hit and miss”.

“We did some things well, but we have to get better in that area,” Brown evaluated afterward. “(There) were too many penalties. That’s the thing that sticks out along with the missed field goal. We will get better there. We’ll invest the time. The biggest worry in game one is special teams. ”

The lack of live work on special teams in this very different preseason is a valid reason for some of the slip-ups, but West Virginia had at least eight big errors in that phase of the game. Those were countered by a simplar number of solid plays, but the negative outweighed the positive right from the start:

    • A hold on the opening kickoff set WVU back from a potential good starting point at its own 44-yard line to the 18 — a net loss of 26 yards.
    • A fair catch on WVU’s first punt return left at least 5-7 yards, and perhaps more, of yardage on the table. That royally displeased Mountaineer assistant coach Chad Scott.
West Virginia assistant coach Chad Scott expresses displeasure on a specal teams play


  • Only the saving grace of a holding penalty kept a 100-yard kickoff return for an EKU score from putting points on the board.
  • On that kickoff, and on the subsequent do-over, West Virginia was offside on the kick. The second one was not flagged, but was even more evident than the first. Those are potential five-yard losses.
  • A punt was muffed, although the Mountaineers managed to jump on it.
  • West Virginia committed interference on a punt catch attempt, although that flag was wiped away by a countering EKU penalty. That’s another potential five-yard loss. It turned out that WVU came out seven yards to the better in field position on the subsequent re-kick, but that’s not an occurence that can be counted on.
  • WVU committed a hold on a second half punt return, contributing another 10-yard setback to the ledger.
  • A missed short field goal left three points on the table.


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It wasn’t all bad. WVU’s punting and punt coverage were very good, and outside of the kickoff return bust it allowed just 16.8 yards per try on six EKU attempts. However, against better competition, just a couple of such errors as the ones listed above could prove critical. Special teams mistakes could have cost West Virginia 52 yards of field position, not to mention a net negative of ten points, against the Colonels, and those are errors that the Mountaineers probably won’t be able to overcome against many of their Big 12 opponents.

The good news is that they didn’t figure in the outcome of this contest. WVU also has nearly two weeks to work on these issues to get them corrected — and, of course, to take some questions about them in the meantime.

Home Page forums Special Teams ‘Hit Or Miss’ Next WVU Concern

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    In most every first game, there are areas of play that exceed expectations and stand out as pleasant surprises. There are also just as often one or tw
    [See the full post at: Special Teams ‘Hit Or Miss’ Next WVU Concern]


    Not so special teams


    Can’t recall if any or how many kickoffs went into the end zone?
    Not sure if this was on purpose in this game to get a feel for different players and/or scenarios, but hope the future plan is to kick it through the end zone every time!? What a weapon that is! Starting at the 25 versus 35 or greater with the chance of a breakaway seems like a logical objective in most cases. There may be occasions, depending on teams and their personnel along with our ability to do so where we might want to try pinning them inside the 25 or in a corner?
    Just sayin’!?


    Looking back at the play by play, there were 5 KO’s into the end zone.  3 run out, 2 for TB’s.


    hopefully this page is still up.



    There was also one EKU fair catch on a kickoff, which results in the same starting point as a touchback. Kickoffs that are high enough to let the coverage team get down and force that are as good as a touchback, IMO.

    Tony, every coach would love to plan to kick the ball out of the end zone all the time. But if kickers aren’t capable of doing so all the time, they must try other tactics, as you note.

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Home Page forums Special Teams ‘Hit Or Miss’ Next WVU Concern

Home Page forums Special Teams ‘Hit Or Miss’ Next WVU Concern