The Film Room: West Virginia Mountaineers – Kansas State Wildcats
WVU head coach Neal Brown and his staff had to enjoy their sessions reviewing video of the Mountaineers’ win over Kansas State, even though there were probably more mistakes therein than they would like. We too liked our views, even from our slightly less palatial digs in the corner of the basement. So, while still enjoying the first Mountaineer win since September, we dive in and look at some illustrative sequences from the 24-20 victory.
West Virginia is ready to attack the line of scrimmage to defend the run (more on that in a bit), but K-State had clearly planned to take a deep shot early. You have to give credit to the Wildcat coaching staff for this one, as they countered their run-heavy tendencies on their first offensive snap of the game. The Wildcats use some nice action from the slot receiver on the play side to attract the attention of West Virginia’s safety, and there could also have been some Mountaineer peeking in the backfield.
The assumption that many make, including TV analysts, is that the cornerback always has the outside receiver. WVU, playing a form a palms coverage on some snaps, doesn’t have that rule in place, so it can be tough at times to figure out who was at fault. Obviously there was some sort of missed assignment on the Mountaineer side, and a perfect throw gave the Cats the early lead. Fortunately, they didn’t get the same sort of throw on their last snap of the game.
WVU has employed a good number of cut blocks in its quick passing game this year. The idea is to get defenders’ hands down and make a throwing lane for short slants and quick crosses, as only a couple of seconds are needed to get the route underway and get a pass through the resulting lanes. Here, though, WVU turns the tables. Watch center Chase Behrndt as he executes a cut block to help create a running lane for Kennedy McKoy. That block could have had defenders thinking a throw was coming, and is one of many nice wrinkles this staff has included this year.
The song “Mr. Touchdown” has a long history (I first remember hearing it when watching the film “Revenge of the Nerds”), but there’s nothing nerdy about George Campbell, who now has six touchdowns among his 14 receptions. The design on his second scoring grab of the day deserves a closer look.
Campbell lines up as the middle receiver in the trips right formation, but executes a crossover with the inside receiver just a few steps downfield. Near the goal line, he squares up against the K-State defense, which is spread out in zone coverage at the goal line, and snares the ball a couple of yards short of paydirt. However, he’s able to turn and scamper in before the Wildcat defenders, who were distracted by the deeper route of Ali Jennings and the goal line out of Sam James, could recover.
This play highlights WVU quarterback Jarret Doege’s composure under pressure. He sees he is going to get blasted, but hangs in to put the ball right on Leddie Brown’s hands for a nice gain.
On the day, Doege took nine hits, and almost all were shots of this type. On six of those passes, he put the ball right on target. Additionally, of his five off target throws (we included a couple of throws that might have been throwaways), two were the result of big hits. That accuracy, especially under pressure, made a big difference in the passing game.
Here’s a really nice look of West Virginia’ defensive tactics against the run. There are four true down linemen, a formation we thought we’d seen the last of when Taijh Alston went down for the season, two linebackers and a pair of safeties in the box. At the snap, almost every defender is headed downhill, every gap is accounted for, and WVU produces a tackle for a loss.
K-State began to counter this inside-oriented look with outside sweeps and runs, and had a handful of good gains when they hooked containment on the edge, or blocked the widest defender out and cut back underneath him. However, WVU held the Wildcat rushing game to 3.2 yards per carry – a win any way you look at it.
We’re showing this, well, just because. You can’t see mental toughness on film, except in the way that it manifests itself in play, and that’s just what is on display here. Casey Legg had a very uneven warm-up, missing multiple kicks from short ranges, and didn’t do anything to turn that around after two kicks went awry during the game. One was erased on a penalty, but that still had to be on his mind somewhat. Or maybe it was the Baylor game, where a blocked kick prevented everyone to see his ability from distance. No such questions here, though, as his 51-yarder rose quickly and sailed deep into the prairie night for a crucial three-pointer.
Like K-State’s first score, Bryce Wheaton’s 50-yard TD grab was the result of coverage breaking down, but the play would never have materialized had Doege not operated smoothly in the pocket, skipping around a pair of rushers before seeing Wheaton break free. Doege again took a massive hit, but did so in the knowledge that his pass was on its way to Wheaton and a final destination in the end zone.
Even as Doege maneuvers in the pocket, his head and eyes never drop, even as he sees a big hit coming from a K-State defender.
WVU cornerback Hakeem Bailey initially allowed K-State receiver Dalton Schoen behind him on the Wildcats’ final offensive play of the game, but scrambles and recovers to make a game-saving interception. In a way, this play was indicative of the contest as a whole for WVU. There were some breakdowns and missed assignments, but no matter the situation, the Mountaineers continued to scrap and play hard.