It’s admittedly difficult to analyze much of West Virginia’s performance against LIU, but there were a few enlightening clips to look at and pull some information from.
LIU obviously looked at WVU’s game film from Maryland, and had some success with the screen and swing passes the Terps employed. On this early play, WVU rushes four, and had a fifth mid-field defender playing indecisively against the run fake.
That leaves the Sharks with two blockers on three outside defenders, but the unblocked Mountaineer ducks between the two LIU blockers, which allows them to screen him away from the play. None of this was consequential in this game, but as coaches have noted recently, WVU has to be more aggressive in attacking from the second level, and doing so against screen blockers is just as important as getting downhill against ballcarriers.
The absence of Mike O’Laughlin has led to the Mountaineers using Nick Malone as a tight end in short yardage situations. Here Malone (58) lines up on the right side of the formation and gets a good block to help prevent penetration on this Leddie Brown scoring run, while TJ Banks, at wingback behind him, gets an adequate seal against a less than determined effort from his opponent.
WVU will likely keep this grouping when O’Laughlin returns, with the Illinois native taking Banks’ place, and could also go with a heavy jumbo look with Malone, O’Laughlin and Banks on the field simultaneously.
It may seem like this topic has been beaten to death, but it’s so important to the overall success of West Virginia’s season that it deserves that focus. West Virginia has to find a way to run the ball, and its lack of consistency in creating space for its backs was a bit shocking.
On this play, WVU has spread the field, and has five blockers agaisnt six defenders in the box. One LIU player, though, reacts slowly to the handoff, and is nowhere near the point of attack, leaving a five-on-five situation and the chance for a respectable gain, if not a very big play, through the B gap on the left side.
LIU runs a very simple twist with its end and tackle on its left side, but the Mountaineers don’t sustain initial contact on an attempted block of the end, who gets penetration and tackles Leddie Brown for no gain. And if the end hadn’t gotten him, a linebacker coming straight downhill from the second level also gets past a straight-on block to assist.
Make those two blocks, and Brown is one-on-one with the safety, and has a least a 10-yard gain, and likely much more.
This is a representative example, and it should be noted that it’s not meant to single out one player as the problem. The offensive line as a whole has had issues, leading to challenges from the coaches to be more physical in sustaining blocks. Can WVU improve enough across the board to make this a respectable part of its game?
This play shows one of several missed opportunities in the Mountaineer passing game.
Again WVU spreads the field, and quarterback Garrett Greene reads backed-off coverage on the right side against three receivers. The quick screen looks to be there, and Greene lets the ball fly quickly, but a poor block by two (!) receivers against one opponent leaves another to make an uncontested tackle.
This is the kind of play you’d expect to see WVU make against LIU, not the other way around. Granted, these are all backups in the game, but the execution on this was clearly lacking.
Garrett Greene’s decision-making has been an issue at times in practice, with attempts to force the ball into tight windows or decisions to run at inopportune times resulting in negative or catastrophic plays. Here, the choices he (and any WVU quarterback) have to make quickly are illustrated.
First, Greene could have handed off to Tony Mathis, and had he done so there was definitely running room to be had, as WVU got a hat on a hat on the line and downfield. Greene also saw, though, similar backed-off coverage on the three receivers on the left, and pulled the ball to throw it. However, none of the receivers were looking, so Greene, to his credit, pulled the ball down and ran it for an eight-yard gain.
Also note that the receivers, who appeared to be looking to block, made no contact with any defenders on the play.
That’s a positive, but it’s also an unlikely occurrence against any of the other defenses WVU will face this year. There will be alignments and schemes that can be taken advantage of, and West Virginia will win some one-on-one confrontations, but all of those opportunities aren’t likely to be present on the same play, as they were here, and WVU likely got the least amount of yardage it could have on this snap.