Cat’s Out Of The Bag: WVU Offense Uses New Formation Against Oklahoma

Mountaineers Find Some Success With The Wildcat

NORMAN, Okla. – West Virginia rode its run game to 31 points in the loss at Oklahoma. The surprise was in how.

The Mountaineers unveiled a wildcat set that shifted quarterback Chris Chugunov to wideout and directly snapped the ball to running back Kennedy McKoy. The look caught Oklahoma off guard, and left the Sooners struggling to adjust early as the Mountaineers managed to piece together a 13-play, 64-yard drive for a field goal and add one of three McKoy touchdowns on a six-play, 75-yard march to stay in the game early.

The idea, according to offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, was to have various approaches available with first-time starer Chris Chugunov, then go with whatever stuck first against Oklahoma.

“We had a lot of different packages in just to help Chugs out,” Spavital said. “I thought he handled the situation really well. He didn’t have any hesitation about him, especially going into an atmosphere like that. I was pleased with how he was. (The wildcat) was one of the packages we wanted to show early, and it kept hitting for us so we wanted to keep riding it along the way.”

McKoy and the Mountaineer line were able to exploit OU’s unfamiliarity with the set, and it led to the back quickly hitting holes and getting vertical. It was the first time McKoy had taken direct snaps since he played QB as a freshman in high school, and he said the feel wasn’t all that odd.

“It helped me being able to already be comfortable in the shotgun and taking a snap, giving an indicator, things like that,” he said. “I wouldn’t say any of it was hard. It came back to me.”

McKoy’s wildcat set had just five plays in the set, and he was never able to hand the ball off, as West Virginia used motion just to move defenders out of the box. Spavital did say WVU could add to the package during the time before the bowl, and that would increase the options.

“I am ready to show people what I can do,” said McKoy, who rushed for a career-high 137 yards and three touchdowns. “Once I broke a few I thought they would adjust, but the O-line did a great job leaning on them and creating holes.”

In all, West Virginia used the set approximately 19 times in the contest, and it helped burn clock early and shorten the game, thought it was not nearly enough in the 59-31 defeat. Still, with a couple more weeks of progression, there’s promise that this cat has more than just one life.

“We thought we had all the adjustments,” Spavital said of why WVU chose that alignment. “When they would adjust we had the answer, so that was a good package for us. With the communication, it was tough slowing the game down like that to keep their offense off the field and then move into different personnel. It can be (a permanent part of the offense). Kennedy has a really good feel for that. The way he ran the ball I was really happy. There were times we just kept feeding him and feeding him.”

West Virginia’s offense rushed for 250 yards and was able to throw for 137 yards under Chugunov, who started in place of the injured Will Grier. The redshirt sophomore completed 10 of 20 passes, but had a handful of misfires on deep balls. But that wasn’t the most discouraging part for Spavital.

“The turnovers,” he said of his primary disappointment. “That fumble on the toss play is something we have to prevent. There were a couple third down calls that we wish we had back. You could sit and go through every single game and want 15, 20 plays back. I am pleased with ow these kids responded with where we were at with injuries. We still had some dropped balls that would have helped Chugs.

“We still have a ways to go. My message to them is we still have work to do. You have to heal up and we have to build off these packages where we are at. We have to be able to take care of the ball and make plays versus teams like that. That’s a really good team we just played and we can’t afford those miscues in turning the ball over.”