It feels as if it has been written a thousand times – the Mountaineer rushing game was dismal in 2019. Fans all across the Mountain State questioned how much the offense would be able to improve in that department all offseason heading into 2020.
Now that we are three games into the season, we can begin to compare the numbers of this season to last. In all honesty, it is astonishing how much the Mountaineers have improved running the ball. Even I, probably the most optimistic fan of all, am in complete shock looking at the numbers. Of course, I mean shock in a good way. Actually, a terrific way.
- Rushing Yards (2019: 879 yards in 12 games), (2020: 531 yards in 3 games):
How about this insanity? Just three games into the 2020 season, West Virginia already has 60% of the rushing yards they had in twelve games last season. This is a true testament to how much the offensive line for the Mountaineers has improved in this department. With hard-running from Leddie Brown, West Virginia has seemingly been able to move the ball on the ground at will. Kansas with their porous defense is next up for the Mountaineers. If WVU can get things rolling against the Jayhawks, they may just be able to nearly eclipse the 879 rushing yards of 2019 in game four.
- Yards Per Carry (2019: 2.6 per rush), (2020: 4.0 per rush):
This is not a stat that most fans pay attention to, but it is important nonetheless. West Virginia couldn’t hardly get anything going in the rushing game during the 2019 season, which hurt them on early downs. Improving the yards per rush by just 1.4 yards is huge. Being able to rely on the ground game on early downs is pivotal to a team’s success. Averaging four yards per rush means you likely are not met with 3rd & long situations too often. If the Mountaineers can keep this average up, it will give them the chance to win games later in the season.
- Rushing Touchdowns (2019: 7 rushing touchdowns), (2020: 8 rushing touchdowns):Would you believe it if I told you WVU’s last rushing touchdown of 2019 came in game five? Yes, the last rushing touchdown for the Mountaineers came on Austin Kendall’s 1-yard scamper against the Longhorns in Morgantown. After that, it was all through the air for the Mountaineer offense. After having five rushing touchdowns against Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia was able to put three into the end zone against Baylor, giving them eight for the season. I think the fact that West Virginia has more rushing touchdowns through three games in 2020 than they did in all of 2019 is just pathetic. This stat is the most proving of how ineffective the Mountaineers rushing attack truly was in year one of Neal Brown.
- Single-Game 100-Yard Rushers (2019: 0), (2020: 3):
Had Leddie Brown gained seven more yards against Baylor, the team would already have four 100-yard rushing performances this season. The Mountaineers were able beat out 2019’s zero 100-yard rushing performances in game one. Alec Sinkfield and Leddie Brown both went for 123 yards and two rushing touchdowns. This stat is individual, so it isn’t necessarily important. However, having backs go over 100-yards is always a nice feat.