The Film Room: West Virginia Mountaineers – Texas Tech Red Raiders
We’re a little light on clips this week, but that’s because we have gone in-depth on Austin Kendall and Jarret Doege in The Film Room. No inherent bias here, no screams to put the other guy in “just because,” no blind defense of the starter, no positions taken just to generate web hits or controversy. Just a dispassionate discussion of the positives and negatives of each,
That doesn’t mean there’s no video, though. A strange no-call, an illustration of how Texas Tech carved up the WVU secondary, and some missed opportunities for the Mountaineers are included.
There’s no great schematic revelation in this play, which is a staple of the Mountaineer attack — a quick screen to a speedy wide receiver, in this case Winston Wright. The notable action comes at the end of the play, when Texas Tech defensive back DaMarcus Fields (23) rips Wright’s helmet off and throws it deep into the Red Raiders’ bench. How is this not a penalty? An official is looking right at it, and even runs over to make sure Wright doesn’t retaliate while he tries to retrieve his headgear. There’s no way he didn’t see it happen, because Wright is forced to leave the game for a play because his helmet came off. I guess it just flew off by itself?
The Red Raiders carved up WVU’s pass defense at will with routes that attacked seams in WVU’s underneath coverage. Tech typically got the ball out quickly, and that, along with excellent protection, kept the Mountaineer pass rush at bay. QB Jett Duffey was as comfortable as he might be in a no-contact seven-on-seven drill.
In this play, despite the Mountaineers dropping eight into coverage, Tech gets both of its wideouts open from the start, and Duffey has his choice of targets. He wisely takes the deepest, resulting in a 33-yard gain. West Virginia’s defenders appear confused from the snap – a situation that repeated itself time and again as the Red Raiders threw the ball almost at will.
And now, the quarterbacks.
We looked at each throw by Austin Kendall and Jarret Doege and judged whether it was on target or not, and noted where misses were located. In the final count, we didn’t include touch passes on jet sweeps, or throws that were batted down at the line, or balls that were clearly thrown away intentionally. The assessment of whether a pass is on target or not can be a subject for debate, and we leaned toward the critical side. For example, a short screen pass might have been completed, but if it forced the receiver to adjust to it and that affected the run after the catch, that’s an off target throw. And, as such, that also includes throws on deep routes that forced receivers to slow their pace, preventing even bigger gains.
There’s also the matter of getting hit on a throw, which can definitely affect accuracy. Kendall was hit much more than Doege was, partially owing to the status of the game at that point. That has to be taken into account, but a quarterback has to be able to make at least some good throws while under pressure, especially on shorter routes.
Of the 40 Austin Kendall passes that were included with these parameters, 26 were on target. There were two or three borderline calls on these, where Kendall might have been throwing to a small window that required a receiver adjustment, but weren’t on the hands or in the body frame. In the interest of fairness, we split the difference on those. Overall, that’s a 66.7% accuracy rate.
Also included were deep passes, and by those we mean throws of 20 or more yards in the air. Here, things were worse. Of the six passes put in this category, only one was right on the money. The results of Kendall’s deep passes were better than that, with two still being completed for big gains, and another resulting in a defensive pass interference call. That does count for a lot, as those throws gave the receiver a chance to catch the ball, unlike overthrows, which are 100% guaranteed not to be completed. However, they also were missed chances for points, which can’t be overstated.
The misses were spread out in different manners. Five were underthrown, three were overthrows, with the remainder wide of intended targets. Again, that last category can be a difficult call, as a couple appeared to be thrown in windows where the receiver might have been expected to move to get to the ball.
Of the on-target throws, Kendall was also hurt by four drops, one of which resulted in an interception.
Doege’s numbers were a bit better. Of his 17 reviewed passes, 12 were on target (70.5%), and those included three drops. He had one borderline miss caused by a hit, and also had a pair of overthrows.
Comparisons of the two performances also have to include game conditions. Doege was presented with more open space in the short range, which prevented him from going downfield. To his credit, he didn’t force anything, and took the openings that were presented, and he only had one dangerous miss, a high ball over the receiver’s head on the hash mark that is often a candidate for interception. However, he didn’t make any glaringly bad decisions, while Kendall had one that stood out, which we’ll look at in a moment.
Kendall was generally under more pressure from the pass rush than Doege, as the Red Raiders were backing off somewhat in coverages, but Doege also took a couple of hits as he threw. Doege also executed a lovely spin move to get away from one free Tech rusher, only to see his ensuing pass dropped by an open Mountaineer receiver. Overall, he looks more mobile than Kendall, who continues to wear a massive knee brace. How much that hinders him moving, or in getting all the way through his throws, is a matter for debate, but given the state of the protection, every bit of mobility helps. Might Doege be a little more of a threat to run the ball? It’s hard to imagine that would make a massive difference in WVU’s woebegone run gain, but again, even a couple of carries for positive yardage would be an improvement.
To make a full comparison, it will be necessary to see Doege play in the heat of a game, which many fans are clamoring for. Head coach Neal Brown and QB coach Sean Reagan played backups early in games during their time at Troy, so they are not averse to doing so, and it’s expected that will happen this week.
West Virginia’s receivers have dropped numerous passes, but those aren’t the only errors that have hampered the passing game. Sloppily-run or flat out incorrect routes have zapped a number of plays, including this fourth down pass into the end zone. Ali Jennings, running a route from the outside, gets a step and has inside position for a pass, but Jovani Haskins runs straight into his route, and actually deflects the ball away from Jennings in his stab at the ball.
This pass was a good one, and Jennings probably had a decent shot at a reception had Haskins not been in the area.
Here’s Kendall’s worst pass of the day, and it comes on a rather unique flea flicker call inside the red zone. Typically, such plays are run with more field to work with, but West Virginia’s anemic red zone performance had the coaching staff plumbing the depths of the playbook to figure out a way to score.
The first thing to note is that the flea flicker action doesn’t keep Kendall free of pressure. A Tech defender rushing off the edge runs right by George Campbell, who is set up to protect against just such an occurrence, and Kennedy McKoy, after executing the pitchback, doesn’t have enough time to get to him. That forces a back foot throw by Kendall, resulting in a very underthrown ball that is picked off to kill another red zone foray.
Kendall’s underthrow is at least partially understandable, given his body position on the throw and the fact that receiver Sam James was open. A throw to the back of the end zone probably would have resulted in a score, so the decision to make the throw wasn’t a terrible one. It was not, as some claim, into “triple coverage,” even though three Tech defenders are in the frame. Both Tech safeties take multiple false steps toward the line of scrimmage, and James is behind all three. If Kendall gets more on this pass, it’s a score, just like a pair of deep balls that were completed earlier in the game. It’s a fair point of debate to consider if a quarterback should be expected to make accurate throws under duress such as this, but there’s no doubt that’s a line that separates respectable\good QBs from great ones.
A final word about ESPN’s coverage and production values. They are going downhill faster than an Olympic skier. Multiple times over the past two weeks, the supposed “Worldwide Leader” has been late coming back from breaks or replays, missing live action in the process. At one point in this week’s game, a play was missed while a clip was shown of Doug Flutie recreating his pass to Gerard Phelan that beat Miami. At other junctures, points being made by analysts are undercut by poor replay selection or camera shots that look like they were framed by someone that had never shot a football game before. Ugh.