Spavital: Contested Plays Key To WVU – TCU Game
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — West Virginia offensive coordinator Jake Spavital knows that despite the prolific nature of his offense, the Mountaineers aren’t going to romp up and down the field in Fort Worth on Saturday afternoon. TCU and its defensive savant, head coach Gary Patterson, will see to that. While the Horned Frogs will play their base 4-2-5 defense, which can shut down the run and pressure the passer without blitzing help, there will also be a couple of twists designed just for WVU’s attack.
“They are pretty consistent in what they do, but they will always have a wrinkle they will throw in there,” Spavital said. “Like last year against Texas Tech, they came out in a three-man front and dropped eight the whole game. It will be interesting to see what direction [Patterson] comes out and plays against us. We will have to adjust on the run. There are always going to be different wrinkles. That is something that TCU does a really good job at, is what you are good at they are going to practice it and practice it until they make sure they are comfortable enough to defend it. You have keep thinking; you have to change presentations. You have to be at your best because they are going to make you earn every single yard.
“Gary Patterson is one of the greatest defensive minds in college football,” Spavital continued. “What he has done over the past, I don’t know how many years, it has been like 18 years at TCU. He has done such an exceptional job at building a sound system and getting players this system that fit what he is trying to do.”
Spavital no doubt has a couple of ideas as to what the Horned Frogs might show differently on Saturday, but won’t tip his hand in that regard. He also might hold just a bit of an advantage in that the West Virginia offense under his direction has but four games of tape for TCU to study, while he can look back at nearly two decades of Patterson in action. That’s small comfort, though, given the success the Frogs have enjoyed defensively. Might it be enough, however, to break out a big play or two that makes the difference in the game?
Spavital has success on his side to sell to his players. The Mountaineers are second nationally in total yards (594.8 per game), first downs (28.8) and scoring (48.8), albeit against a schedule that includes but one good team. He’s balanced that knowledge of success with caution (“You are not going to be screaming down the field wide-open”) to make his final point — the team that makes the close plays will win the game.
“It’s going to come down to athlete vs athlete,” he observed after agreeing that the schemes and tactics on both sides might balance each other out. “It’s going to come down to Will [Grier] being accurate with the ball. They are going to squeeze the air out of the holes and you have to sit in there and catch contested plays. We have to win the one-on-one battles; we have to limit our mistakes. There are going to be tough yards.”
As to his own team’s offensive success to date, Spavital credits the synergy of experience, expectations and talent. It’s no small thing to have that success to fall back upon. If TCU comes up with three or four stops, West Virginia knows that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be stymied the rest of the day. It will simply have to push that edge to win those tight battles, where every play can make a difference.
“I think it’s just a mixture of the culture and the players and everybody being on the same page,” Sapvital summed up. “I’m a big believer in “football is football” – everybody does a lot of the same things. When you look at teams around the country that are struggling, you see a disconnect. Then you look at good teams and they are all on the same exact page. From a coaching standpoint and a player standpoint I think we have all bought in to that.”
It’s a lesson that the Mountaineers must remember when things get tough on Saturday