WVU Offense Running At Record Pace
West Virginia’s defensive issues have been in the spotlight over the early part of the season, and while that is a thread that needs to be followed, it’s also not one that should be woven into a curtain that obliterates the achievements of the Mountaineers to date in the 2017 season. The most obvious, yet perhaps neglected, of those are on the offensive side of the ball, where the West Virginia attack is functioning at a record-setting rate.
Before we get started, yes, it should be noted that some of the opposition hasn’t been great thus far. However, Virginia Tech definitely is, and WVU put up excellent numbers against the Hokies. Give the nature of games in the Big 12, the 2017 offense could be the most productive in Mountaineer history.
The standard-bearer for West Virginia offenses is the 2012 group, feature Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. That trio helped spearhead an attack that gained 6,506 yards in 2012, an average of 502 per game. Both of those are school records. The 2017 group could shatter that mark, as it is on pace to gain 7,735 yards this year if it can keep up at its current rate of 595 yards per outing. Even if production were to drop some during the conference season, West Virginia would still need to average just 458 yards per game over its remaining nine contests (assuming a bowl game) to equal the 2012 levels.
Other marks are also in jeopardy. The 2006 offense average 7.3 yards per play, while this year’s attack currently checks in at 7.4 per snap. The Mountaineers have already scored 27 touchdowns this season, threatening to blow past the 69 visits to the end zone of the 2012 squad.
On the individual front, there might not be quite as many records set, simply due to the great distribution of talent on this year’s team. The shared workload of the backs and receivers could keep some of those safe, but there still are some interesting races to watch. First is quarterback Will Grier, whose 343.5 yards per game would yield a season total of 4,465, edging him slightly past Smith’s 4,385 in 2012. Touchdown passes are also a tight projection, with Grier looking at 42 for the year — the same as Smith’s 2012 total. Receiver David Sills is a bit behind Stedman’s Bailey’s pace which yielded 25 scoring receptions in 2012, but a big day or two could close that gap.
What can this production mean to this year’s team? The quick reaction is that it at least gives the Mountaineers a chance to outscore opponents in the expected Big 12 shootouts to come. That’s true, but if WVU can get some players back healthy on defense, and play as it did in the opener against Virginia Tech, it also means the Mountaineers could be in a very strong position come October and November. With all the troubles to date, it should be remembered that a full-strength West Virginia defensive lineup hasn’t been seen on the field so far this season. A few more three-and-outs defensively, combined with continued productivity on the offensive end, could push WVU higher than what many are predicting in the wake of the Kansas game.
Even if WVU doesn’t end up setting a slew of offensive records, the means are in place to keep it in any game. The only thing that needs improvement at this point, and this is a relatively minor quibble, is one of consistency and continued urgency from series to series. Choose your metaphor — stepping on the gas, step on the opponent’s neck — if West Virginia can do that, and avoid the letdowns that have been apparent at the start of second halves and after leads have been built, it could be in position to put other teams in a hole from which they can’t recover. Or at least, it could give the Mountaineers the opportunity to win games late with a last possession. Give the WVU offense the ball with three minutes to go and 70 yards to cover for a win: there aren’t many who wouldn’t take that situation in any remaining Big 12 game.