Though we are ten weeks into the 2020 College Football season, the Mountaineers are still a difficult team to get a read on. The offense is hot and cold – sometimes moving the ball with ease, and other times giving Kolton McGhee and Tyler Sumpter the workout of their lives. Defensively, the team has been rock solid, and has really carried the weight for the entire club. However, they find themselves at 4-3 overall, with all three losses being games they could have won late. So what is the difference between their wins and losses this season? Why is a team that has improved so much from 2019 still hovering around the .500 mark? It’s simple. West Virginia just plays better at home.
In Morgantown, West Virginia is 4-0 this season. On the road, they are 0-3 with losses to Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Texas. While the defense has traveled well, and has truly given opponents a headache no matter the venue, the offense hasn’t done so. In their four home wins this season, WVU’s offense is averaging 39.5 points per game, and adding 499.5 yards per game. Numbers reminiscent of the Will Grier-David Sills era. On the road, the tale has been the exact opposite.
In their three road losses this season, the Mountaineers have only been able to muster 17.6 points per game, and are averaging over 100 less yards at 383.6. For some reason (of which could be the opponent), the Neal Brown-Gerad Parker led offense is simply not getting it done when they are away from Milan Puskar Stadium. Most notably in their loss to Texas Tech, it was the offense that handed the Red Raiders the victory when Sam James fumbled the ball and it was scooped and scored for the go-ahead touchdown.
What I believe this to be is something mental. West Virginia seems to be more comfortable offensively in Morgantown than they do anywhere else. This is where I feel the crowd becomes a factor. The Mountaineer offense is still relatively young, and many players on the unit are still developing. They are not used to opposing collegiate stadiums yet, even with reduced capacity. While it may be frustrating for us fans, we simply have to realize these are growing pains every youthful team must endure.
Even though the defense has been elite, they are also taking a step back when they are on the road. At home, Jordan Lesley and Jahmile Addae have been able to rally the troops to allow only 14.5 points per game, along with 211 yards per game. The numbers outside of Morgantown are not brutal, but they aren’t displaying what the unit is capable of.
The Mountaineers are yielding 26 points per game, and 351 yards per game when they travel this season. Not bad, but a significant difference from how they have performed at home. Again, this could be because of the opponents West Virginia has faced away from Morgantown, but it could also be a struggle between the ears.
The Mountaineers are outstanding this season on Mountaineer Field. It is always refreshing to be dominant at home, and it gives the team confidence that no matter the opponent, they can defend their turf. West Virginia has the chance to improve to 5-0 on the season at home against TCU this weekend. Should the offense and defense perform as they have been in Morgantown since we kicked this thing off in September, we will be in for another outstanding afternoon of singing Take Me Home, Country Roads.