Jake Spavital Gets It On Tape
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – In the days leading up to any football game, there are often discussions about tweaks and tactics made for the upcoming opponent, and of surprising them with things they have not seen. While that is still a part of the game, the reverse is also true — sometimes teams want to get a particular play or look on tape to force opponents to prepare for it.
Such was the case for West Virginia against East Carolina. The Mountaineers could have run four or five base plays and formations and still won the game easily, but instead chose, as offensive coordinator Jake Spavital explained, to get a few different things out in the open.
Chief among those was wide receiver Marcus Simms — and more specifically his speed. Returning from a one-game suspension, Spavital immediately got him involved in the offense, targeting him four times with deep balls and also deploying him on both punt and kickoff returns. He finished with 136 yards of total offense, and sent the message that Spavital was hoping to deliver.
“He can run can’t he,” Spavital understated. “That was something I wanted to show on tape too. I think has a unique speed, and I don’t think there are very many kids in the country who can stretch the field like he can.”
West Virginia also did the same with Elijah Wellman late in the game, throwing a pass to the fullback\tight end that had no impact on the contest. Now, though teams will have to prepare for it. WVU can also deviate from that expectation, and run something different from the same formation.
Spavital also wanted the Mountaineers to get their running game geared up. Although that was not a huge problem against Virginia Tech, the Hokies’ defensive tactics kept WVU from going heavily to the ground game, so Spavital wanted to build confidence in that aspect of the Mountaineer attack.
“I wanted to establish the run game early. I wanted them to play with a great sense of energy and establish a bloody nose mentality,” the new offensive playcaller said. “I thought we established that from the get-go.”
With five runs on the opening drive of the game which led to a touchdown, and 47 rushes overall, WVU did just that. The blowout score skewed the overall run-pass ratio in the direction of the former, but Spavital’s intention was clear on several occasions throughout the game. Justin Crawford got four carries in a five-play span over two drives of the second quarter (one of those being his 41-yard touchdown jaunt), and Kennedy McKoy had six totes over two drives in the third.
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Spavital, along with head coach Dana Holgorsen, also discussed the balance of getting backups into the game against keeping rhythm going with the starters and primary situational performers. Pulling Will Grier from the contest might seem an obvious move, but the fact is that he has not really had all that much playing time with those around him. Balance, that, though, with the need to audition more players in game situations and build depth, and it’s not the easy choice that might be imagined. The decision was made to keep the starters in for the first drive in the third quarter, to work on keeping intensity high coming out of the halftime break. The results weren’t great on either side of the ball, as WVU yielded an eight-play drive for a field goal and then sputtered with a pair of holding penalties, so that will clearly be a point of emphasis for West Virginia in this week’s preparations for Delaware State.