Oklahoma State showed a preponderance of man-to-man coverage in its secondary in its win over Tulsa, and there’s no doubt that the Cowboys will try to unleash their physical, hands-on play against West Virginia’s receiving corps on Saturday. OSU forced a ridiculous 0-12 third down conversion rate against the Golden Hurricane, grabbing and harrassing receivers while allowing just 165 passing yards.
“They are going to make it a phsyical game in the back end, and make it hard for you to separate on third down,” WVU offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Gerad Parker analyzed. “It falls on us to win some of those battles. It’s critical. We’ve told guys everywhere we’ve been, the ability to win the junction point and win against man coverage is one of the biggest things we are judging on.”
OK, winning one-on-one against man coverage is a familiar concept. But junction points?
That’s terminology for any spot on the field where two players meet in one-on-one conflict. Often – in fact, most times – it doesn’t involve the ball. It can apply to many positions, but in this instance Parker is referring to those points in the pass route where receiver and defensive back come together. It could be right off the line of scrimmage in press coverage, or it could be at the top or break in the route where a receiver looks to gain separation. Wherever those junction points occur, so too must wins for the offense to be successful.
Parker wasn’t kidding when he said he’s taught those concepts wherever he goes. Here’s a tweet from him last year listing five keys to winning receiver junction points.
Top 5 Ways to Win the Junction Point
— Gerad Parker (@GeradParker1) April 2, 2019
Boiled down to basics, there are hundreds of these conflicts in every contest. No player or team is going to win every one. But win enough of them, or establish an outsized advantage in a couple of areas, and the odds of winning a game go up.
Oklahoma State showed just that in the Tulsa game. Despite sputtering on offense and producing just 16 points and 284 yards, the Cowboys were able to win the game by holding Tulsa to just 5.9 yards per pass attempt, not to mention that bagel on third down. For the Golden Hurricane, that was like buying a carton of eggs, then getting home to find every one broken.
Can West Virginia’s still-young receiving corps deal with OSU’s tactics? While a number got a bit more time than anticipated in the Eastern Kentucky game due to the suspensions of T.J. Simmons, Isaiah Esdale and Zack Dobson, there’s no doubt that EKU defenders didn’t stress them nearly as much as the Pokes secondary will. Players such as Winston Wright, Sam James, Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Sam Brown and Reese Smith, all still on the front ends of their careers, will have to show they are ready to handle NFL-level coverage tactics. They’ll have to fight through and break contact, and perhaps more importantly, not get frustrated if flags don’t fly.
“Those moments are critical, and we feel like our guys have come a long way and are really growing in our ability to do those things,” Parker said. “It’s a huge test for our guys in Week Two of a season. It will be interesting to see the battle go on. That’s the fun part of the junction point, and the fun part in being able to play this game. Those will be great match-ups and will really tell the tale.”