New Buzzword For West Virginia’s Offense In Win Over Iowa State
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia’s offense played with a tagline rarely used to describe the Mountaineers.
With Iowa State’s defense routinely dropping eight players into coverage in an attempt to limit the big play, WVU took its yardage in sections and nickle and dimed the Cyclones into 20 first half points. It was pretty, or particularly enthralling. But it paid handsome dividends through the initial two quarters, and at the end when Kennedy McKoy took a delayed draw for 17 yards and a first down on an ISU defense worn from the run game.
“I told them to be patient the entire game,” WVU offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said. “Even me, I had to be patient with the play calling and I wanted them to be patient with their games. They are keep everything in front, so you have to be happy with those four to five to six yard gains and get lined back up and compete again on the next play and not try to press too much.”
Iowa State tried to lure West Virginia into the trap it laid for a pair of top five wins over Oklahoma and TCU. Namely, the meant baiting the Mountaineers into indulging the desire to score quickly instead of utilizing a methodical attack. It was like being tested via the discipline to resist instant gratification for better future results. WVU did that effectively for much of the first two quarters, piecing together drives of eight, nine and 10 yards – an aspect rarely seen in what’s become a quick-striking scheme from Spavital.
The result was a battered and bruised Iowa State defense that had to switch to a four down linemen look to thwart the gashing efficiency of Justin Crawford and McKoy, and begin to mix in various coverages that hadn’t often shown themselves on tape.
“Me and Spav talked the whole week about how you have to be patient, run the ball and take what they give you,” said Will Grier, who completed 20 of 25 passes for 316 yards and two scores with an interception. “It wasn’t how we normally play in a lot of ways. But we stuck to it, stayed the course and our guys did a really good job of buying in this week for what we had to do. Our line stepped up and played a really good game in protection and the run game.”
But the changes hurt West Virginia in the second half, when it lost the ball on downs, punted twice and threw an interception in the end zone. The sluggishness allowed ISU to rally to within 20-16 before the overall wear and tear – and a huge conversion from McKoy – finally ceased the comeback as the Mountaineers took down a ranked team for the second time this season.
“They are going to keep things in front,” Spavital said. “We challenged the guys all week about not just being physical in the run game but also on the perimeter in blocking. I thought we did a good job of that as well. We wanted to have fresh backs when we were at the end of the game. That’s a tough defense to go up against. Our kids just battled. They are a team where if you make mistakes they will capitalize on them. So we eliminated mistakes. I am very pleased and proud of how they competed. It was an issue to be the more physical team and they went out and were the aggressor.”
Crawford racked up 102 yards while McKoy finished with 60. The ground game was complemented by a passing attack that again hit for more than 300 yards, led by Ka’Raun White’s career-best 167 yards on four catches. White scored one of two touchdowns by the Mountaineers, that coming on a 55-yard pass from Grier, while David Sills added the other after White’s long catch early in the game was called back because the receiver stepped out of bounds. Sills’ touchdown was his national-best 16th in just nine games.
“I thought we played with an edge and a toughness,” Greir said. “It showed. We ran the ball really well. I can’t believe (White) ran out of bounds. We had to finish that drive. I wish we would have finished a couple others a little better. We have to be better in those situations, but overall we had a good day. Kennedy ran the ball hard, with great ball security. He got us a huge first down on a third and 17 and sealed the deal. It was a great play call and a really good play by Kennedy to find a hole and break it to the outside and know where the sticks are. Great run.”
That came back, again, to patience. West Virginia likely would have thrown the ball against most other foes. But Iowa State’s flooding of the second and third levels with players, not to mention the Mountaineers desire to run more clock at the end of the game, spurred the draw call and effectively ended the comeback threat.
“I was thinking run clock. That was the safest play,” said Spavital, whose play calling has never been deemed such. “I thought they’d think we were going to try to go for the first down. Will was great at that, extending plays, and if you are a drop eight it’s going to be tough to throw it into those small windows. That third and 17 call – which we never should have got in that situation anyways – was good to see that executed cleanly and McKoy fought for those extra yards. It was more try to get yards back and run as much clock as possible.
“We have some momentum now with a win. We gotta focus and try to get two wins in a row, because they way I look at it everybody is beating everybody up. We have to just continue on with this. Every one is important. This is another important one and next week will be important and so will the week after that.”