The Film Room: West Virginia Mountaineers – Baylor Bears

West Virginia had coverage busts that were evident all day, starting from the second Baylor play of the game. Here, the Bears run a front side slant that is very similar to what the Mountaineers have done in previous weeks, with a single back in the backfield flaring out to try to make an linebacker or safety declare.

In this case, Jackie Matthews (3), rushes the pocket, but he’s hesitant, and as is most often the case with West Virginia pass rushers, fails to get his hands up. That leaves an open throwing lane, and when Nicktroy Fortune is playing some 10 yards off the receiver on the throw, it’s an easy pitch and catch. Josh Chandler-Semedo makes a one-handed attempt at a tackle, but that’s not nearly enough, and the Mountaineers are down 7-0.

Free safety Alonzo Addae is up helping on the three BU receivers on the opposite side of the lineup, so there’s no deep help to make this a 25-yard gain instead of a romp to the end zone.

One final note – there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of all-out sprints from the WVU secondary once the catch is made. Granted, they weren’t going to catch him, but this effort level left a bad taste that seemed, at least from our perspective, to carry over throughout the game. Head coach Neal Brown, as he promised, addressed that on Tuesday, and said that he thought WVU’s poor showing was attributable to both execution issues and low energy levels at times.

“I don’t think there were a bunch of loafs,” he said, quantifying those times that he did not think players were playing hard, but at the same time he pointed out that more is required. “The question is, do they strain? Do they go above and beyond? If you put the Oklahoma game on and put [the Baylor game] on, we look like a different speed. We have to figure out why.”

Brown clearly thinks that officials are starting the play clock too quickly after kickoffs, as he blasted one after WVU was forced to call a timeout following Baylor’s first kickoff from the game.

Here we provide all of the available clip with the play clock, which starts at 40 seconds as soon as the previous play is over, according to the rule book. It’s picked up on TV at 38 seconds after the touchback, and WVU is huddling on the sideline. We don’t see the ball get spotted, but it’s important to remember that the spotting of the ball is not what starts the play clock. It begins as soon as the previous play is over, as stated in Rule 4-a-b-1:

“When an official signals that the ball is dead, the play clock shall begin a 40-second count.”

That seems to be what happens here, and unless there’s some other rule in play, or Brown is referring to some other issue, this looks to be on West Virginia. The Mountaineers don’t break from the sideline until the 23-second mark, and don’t get lined up until about 11. Then there’s an apparent snafu in alignment, as quarterback Jarret Doege makes a motion with his hand that seems to be signaling a needed change. No one moves, so he has to call a timeout.

Whatever the issue here, WVU has to fix it. Blast missives to the Big 12 supervisor of officials Greg Burks. Have the play call ready to go before the kickoff – is there really a need to huddle for that long on the sideline?

On its first big pass play, Baylor had five receivers in the pattern. On this one, the Bears run a two-man route, and protect with seven, including using a player coming across the formation from the right to pick up Jared Bartlett, who has pass coverage responsibility out of the backfield on his side but belatedly realizes that his man is staying in to help block.

The BU line is stout, but with WVU committing just four players to the initial rush, there should be plenty of defenders to cover downfield. However, there’s again confusion.

Baylor swings its motion man to the left flat, replacing the player who came across in the opposite direction. Two Mountaineers are initially covering him, although one peels off after seeing he’s not a threat.

The free safety in the middle of the field gets caught coming downhill with several steps toward the line, so now it’s one one one with each of Baylor’s two receivers who are deep in the pattern. That’s just too much space and speed to cover, and only a slightly off-target throw and a stumble by the receiver prevents this from being another touchdown.

Brown noted that Baylor did a great job of scheming plays and setting up one-on-ones that it could win — this is one of many examples.

Get all of our print editions with your subscription today!

It’s a goal line defense situation for the Mountaineers, with the Bears at third and two inside the 10-yard line. West Virginia’s defense includes no cornerbacks on this play, and the safeties and linebackers have some clear confusion when this turns out to be a pass play.

Without knowing the call, it’s not clear whether Alonzo Addae or Lance Dixon should have had the Baylor tight end on this play, but clearly there as a mix-up when he releases into the pattern. Baylor’s motion also helped the receiver get open, as WVU shifted a bit in response, kept eyes on the fullback out of the backfield, but totally ignored the playside tight end.

Also just as clearly, WVU was expecting a run here, and when a pass came it was, if not taken by surprise, at least leaning forward in anticipation of a zone read, a QB power or some other sort or action on the ground. Every defender on the second level took at least one, if not more, steps forward, even though there was no definitive fake to the running back on the play.

This play gets included at the request of one of our site regulars, and it’s an excellent example of some of the problems the Mountaineers offensive line faced all afternoon. Again, it’s not meant to single out one player as the root of all such problems — there were breakdowns up and down the line at just about every position.

On this snap, Baylor rushes only four, while WVU pass protects with five. West Virginia’s right guard gets off balance in his initial attempt to block (if he were skiing, we’d say he got out over his tips), and makes minimal contact. His Baylor opponent easily redirects his momentum and has a clear path to quarterback Jarret Doege, who is buried before he has a chance to do anything with the ball.

As Neal Brown pointed out on Tuesday, West Virginia players will execute assignments correct and show good fundamentals and techniques on one play, but then revert to bad habits on the next. Whether that’s a talent issue, a lack of attention to detail, or less than optimal teaching isn’t easy to figure out from the outside, but as long as we keep seeing plays like this one, WVU’s offense will continue to struggle.

At this point in the game, WVU needed something to spark a turnaround, so the on-side kick call wasn’t a bad decision. (With that in mind, we’d wonder why the Mountaineer coaching staff elected to kick another field goal at the end of the previous possession, which still left it down by 15 points.)

Anyway, there are problems from the start here. When Evan Staley contacts the ball, only one player on the play side is less than a yard from the 35, and two players are three yards back. They’re eliminated from any chance of getting to the ball almost immediately.

The kick travels 12 yards downfield, leaving only speedy Sam James with a shot of recovering it, and had he turned around or tracked the ball better in the air, he would have had a very good chance of doing so. Neither of those things happen, however, and the ball falls right between the legs of the only Baylor player with a chance of recovering it — which he does.

On the end of the replay, James almost looks like he’s trying to avoid the ball — perhaps he thought it hadn’t gone 10 yards. If so, that’s yet another example of the lack of awareness? game discipline? that has plagued this team throughout the season.

“This was obviously not well-executed,” Brown summed up on Wednesday.