WVU, Oklahoma State Pit Shifting Faces In Offense-Defense Match-Up
A match-up between two units that use a lot of masking and movement will play out on Mountaineer Field this Saturday when West Virginia hosts Oklahoma State. WVU’s offense has relied on “window dressing” with lots of pre-snap movement and motion to help create mismatches and confuse opposing defenses, who may have a bead on what the Mountaineers are running, but not the formations from which plays are run. On the flip side, Oklahoma State’s improving defense is doing something similar.
“From a coaching standpoint, they are doing a great job of mixing up their looks week in and week out,” Mountaineer head coach Neal Brown said. “They are gaining experience on defense, and playing better than they did early in the year. They played some really good teams early in the year, not that they aren’t now, but some of their young guys they are playing like (defensive end Trace) Ford and their linebackers are getting a feel.”
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy agreed with that assessment, while noting that a change in schematics has also helped.
“[We were playing] a match-up man coverage we have used in the past, and in this league it’s difficult to play man against teams that throw the ball effectively. We went away from that a few weeks ago – it was a mutual decision among all of the coaches. Since we got away from that we have played better.”
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The insertion of Jarret Doege as the starter at quarterback paid dividends in the Kansas State win, but Brown, as coaches are wont to do, noted there were a couple of minuses sprinkled in among all the pluses.
“Jarret handled himself well. He didn’t do anything that would get us beat. I know that sounds underwhelming,” said Brown, stopping short of using the ‘game manager’ term. “He did a lot of good things. Kansas State was really good on third down conversion (defense) coming in, but we had three touchdowns on third down. That says something about the quarterback and the offense. He extended plays with his feet to buy time. There are things he can do better, and that’s part of coaching.”
Gundy was in sync with Brown’s views after his first round of watching the WVU – Kansas State game tape.
“It looks like they have found a QB they might settle in with. He was effective against K-State, took care of the football and made plays. Manhattan is not an easy place to play, especially as well as Kansas State has been playing the last month. To go in there and get a win was really impressive.
“Neal is doing things he has always done, spread you out then hit you in the middle and throw the ball deep.”
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West Virginia kicker Casey Legg struggled some during pre-game warm-ups, and when his first two in-game attempts went awry (one was negated by a K-State penalty), there might have been some hesitance about sending him out for a 51-yard field goal try in the fourth quarter against the Wildcats. Brown, however, quickly weighed the situation and concluded that the placekick was the best option.
“We had the wind, so I felt really confident that he had the leg,” Brown punned, perhaps unintentionally. “We put our kickers through challenges in the spring and the fall, and he answered them all. “We were in a really odd part of the field where punting didn’t give us any benefit. We don’t practice the pooch punt that close. We had gotten a not smart penalty, so didn’t think going for it was good. The positives outweighed the negatives in that situation.”
On that series, the Mountaineers had advanced to the K-State 18-yard line, but two holding penalties pushed them all the way back to the 39. Kennedy McKoy’s five-yard gain on a swing pass put the field goal back into consideration, and Legg drilled the chance with plenty of room to spare.
Brown noted that Legg is one of two WVU starters that did not play high school football, with offensive lineman Mike Brown being the other. Perhaps inadvertently, he left out punter Josh Growden, who played Australian Rules Football but only worked on punting at a kicking academy, which does not play games, before coming to the U.S. to punt. Growden did, though, bring a wealth of kicking the ball on the run from his experience playing “footy” in Australia.
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Gundy also voiced praise for the West Virginia defense, which hasn’t been great statistically but is performing well in creating disruptive plays.
“They are doing a nice job on defense. They tackle well — that’s something I noticed from watching this week’s tape. “They get pressure up front, and are active. For the most part they have been really good on defense.”
Oklahoma State has had to adapt offensively after losing star wide receiver Tylan Wallace for the remainder of the season to a knee injury. In eight games, he had 53 catches for 903 yards and eight touchdowns.
“We have had to make some adjustments,” Gundy admitted. “There are a few differences, but for the most part we are staying within our system. Dillon Stoner has made a lot of plays, and Chuba (Hubbard) has had to carry the ball more in the games where Wallace wasn’t in there.”
OSU has done as well as might be expected, scoring 34 and 31 points in its last two contests. Stoner has caught eight balls for 243 yards, while Hubbard has slashed for 345 yards on 43 carries.