The Film Room: WVU – Oklahoma State
There was a lot of ugliness in store as we headed into the corner of our cinderblock field house to thread up the projector with the film from the West Virginia – Oklahoma State game. West Virginia was dominated on the lines of scrimmage, and only a pair of non-offensive touchdowns kept the game competitive into the fourth quarter. So, to lighten things up a bit at the start, we look at WVU’s excellent scheme on the punt it blocked in the third quarter to get back in the game.
The Mountaineers have been using receivers and defensive backs as its inside rushers on punts, but on this one it deploys linebackers Logan Thimons, Adam Hensley and Zach Sandwisch, along with beefy back Martell Pettaway. The backers shift just before the snap, then break through to the shield in front of punter Zach Sinor, occupying them all. That allows Osman Kamara to speed in from the edge unhindered to get the block.
West Virginia’s offensive line was mediocre on the day, and this clip is demonstrative of that. Despite a double team block at the point of attack, Oklahoma State defeats it and gets into the backfield and blows up a draw for a big loss. Granted, it was a draw, which invites defensive linemen across the line of scrimmage, but even help from a running back can’t keep OSU from getting to Justin Crawford before he gets started.
West Virginia didn’t blitz a great deal against the Cowboys, and when it did it couldn’t get home to quarterback Mason Rudolph, and compounded that with very soft coverage in the back end. It’s one on one coverage in the secondary, but James Washington, running a quick in cut behind a block, is given way too much cushion to operate. It’s an easy dumpoff for Rudolph, and Washington is untouched as Dravon Askew-Henry is eight yards away, and headed in the wrong direction, when he catches the ball. Plays like this one call for a bit closer coverage, as Rudolph is almost assuredly going to throw the ball early.
Head coach Dana Holgorsen, more than once, mentioned a lack of physicality and aggressiveness as problems in defeat. Even when WVU did show some of that, tentative play from backs and receivers moved potential good plays into the mediocre category. Here, the Mountaineers get the edge sealed on a run, and a jump cut from Justin Crawford to the outside would have yielded decent yardage, and perhaps more if he had extended to the sideline behind the block of Ka’Raun White. Instead, there’s hesitation, and a move to the inside where a blocked defender clogs a gap. The line has taken its share of hits, but there has been a great deal of hesitation from running backs in recent weeks too.
Great counter action here by WVU, and something that they may need to do more of in terms of breaking tendencies. In this game, every time Tevin Bush (14) entered, the Cowboy sideline erupted with calls of “Fourteen!” and a defensive move down into the box, with extra attention paid to the speedy freshman. West Virginia counters this with motion and a fake inside handoff to Bush (See four OSU defenders go flying in his direction), then flips a shuffle pass to Elijah Wellman, who rumbles up the middle for 13 yards. WVU might also look to run the same sort of action, but then release Bush into an actual downfield pass pattern, which could take advantage of the bunched defensive sets that usually await him.
At this point in the season, communication problems should be lessening, not growing, but that’s not the case. In this clip, offensive linemen Colton McKivitz and Kyle Busch aren’t on the same page as an Oklahoma State lineman comes free for an easy sack of quarterback Will Grier. What makes it worse is that the Cowboys were rushing just three on this snap. This isn’t to pick on the offensive line — communication problems abounded in the this game, from quarterbacks and wide receivers to the defensive secondary. This is just one illustrative clip of the problems that have grown over the past couple of weeks.
Bad throw? Wrong route run? Bad read? It’s tough to figure out which one, or more than one, of those factors were in play on this ugly interception. Will Grier’s pass is equidistant between receivers Gary Jennings and White, but Jennings never looks for the ball. Grier’s accuracy was the worst it has been all season, and even some of his completions weren’t on-target throws. His receivers didn’t help him either, as they didn’t compete for the ball aggressively in some situations, and as seen here, didn’t even see it coming in others.