Uneven Performance Focus For McKivitz, WVU Offensive Line

Uneven Performance Focus For McKivitz, WVU Offensive Line

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia tackle Colton McKivitz is nothing if not a realist. While he knows that he and his offensive line mates are a big part of the offense that has produced nearly 527 yards and more than 41 points per game this year, he also realizes there is room for improvement. WVU’s 38-22 win over Kansas demonstrated the highs and lows of the play up front.

First, there was the good. The Mountaineers ran 80 plays, possessing the ball for 34:11 and averaging 6.4 yards per play. Overall, the rushing average looked good, as the Mountaineers averaged 6.1 yards per carry when sacks were removed from the total.

Counterbalancing that, however, was a rollercoaster performance in the red zone. Three interceptions from the passing game were bad enough, but there were also five negative yardage rushing plays that showed some of the problems up front.

“Our goal in the end zone is 100% touchdowns, and three interceptions isn’t our goal,” McKivitz said afterward. “I think some of it is lack of focus but also we didn’t run the ball very well in the red zone. As an OLine we have to work on that this week.”

West Virginia offensive lineman Joe Brown

To help in that regard, offensive lineman Joe Brown is expected back for this week’s game against Iowa State. The junior college transfer sustained a neck injury in the late stages of the Kansas State game, and missed the last two contests against Texas Tech and Kansas. While Brown isn’t the complete answer — he was rotating snaps with Chase Behrndt prior to being injured — he was clearly one of WVU’s top two players at right guard, and his return will definitely help.

Still, WVU’s red zone rushing has been a problem for much of the season.

“We’re getting there, but it’s not at its final stages. Dana talked about it after the game, and he said a win’s a win, but we’re definitely not playing our best ball,” McKivitz said.

While a consistent lineup on its own offensive front might help, McKivitz notes that similarities between WVU’s past two opponents and the Cyclones, as least as far as the base defensive front goes, could help the Mountaineers be a bit more comfortable.

“Iowa State is the same front — they run that three-down set. This is three weeks in a row we will see it, so we have to come out harder.”

Looking forward, McKivitz is taking a positive approach to the shuffling and lees-than-optimal play that has characterized the line so far this year.

“We rotated Jacob (Buccigrossi) at guard, and having those reps will be helpful at the end of the season. They’ll kind of know what to expect,” the Jacobsburg, Ohio, native said. “Coach also said we might not be playing our best, but there’s always something to work on.”

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