Photo courtesy of WDTV.com
Story of the first half: Mistakes, and plenty of them. False start penalties, special teams’ blunders, and a costly fumble returned for a touchdown put the Mountaineers behind on the scoreboard despite dominating time of possession and total yards. Of course, those two come hand in hand, but the WVU offense looked to be able to move the ball. The Cowboys came out of the gates with pressure, lots of it, 7-8 man boxes and bringing edge blitzes. This resulted in a field position battle for the entire first quarter as each team traded punts, unable to move the ball much past the other’s 40 yard line. Jarret Doege could not seem to get in a rhythm, constantly throwing off his back foot, off target to many of his receivers beyond 10 yards.
LD Brown broke open the scoring with a 66 yard scamper early in the 2nd quarter to give the Pokes a 7-0 lead. An unaccounted-for gap on the left side of the line and the seas parted for Brown. On WVU’s next drive, Tyron Irby returned a strip sack fumble 56 yards for a second Cowboy touchdown. After the score, the Mountaineers made a change in strategy to start getting the ball out of Doege’s hands quicker. This saw WVU drive the ball down the field on two straight possessions, poised for some points only to have them end with fumbles, one of which was returned for a score. WVU got on the board on the third possession of the quarter, with Doege hitting Winston Wright Jr on a quick inside pop that Wright took 70 yards to the house. On the ensuing kickoff, Oklahoma State’s Braydon Johnson gave WVU a golden opportunity by having the ball bounce off his chest around the 15 yard line but the Mountaineers could not come up with the loose ball. Another field goal for the Cowboys gave them a 20-7 halftime lead.
To this point the WVU defense had held the two big play Cowboy threats relatively in check with Tylan Wallace only having caught 3 passes for 52 yards, 32 of them on one catch and Chuba Hubbard to just 48 yards rushing. The Stills brothers both made plays in the first half with each of them spending some reasonable time in the Oklahoma State backfield. The largest demon for the Mountaineers came in the form of the Cowboys aggressive defense. Specifically, the right side of WVU’s offensive line had a lot of trouble picking up the blitz as well as just getting a hat on a hat. Leddie Brown and company managed to lose yardage running to the right (-1) while gaining 44 to the left side in the first half. Even though the run game busted a few 10+ yard rushes, a lot of those yards were after contact at the line of scrimmage. Brown simply refused to be brought down by the first defender.
Story of the second half: Unlucky, period. The Oklahoma State offense pretty much fizzled out in the second half. The football became a pinball for their offense as multiple times it went sliding across the turf but a WVU defender just could not fall on top of it. The third quarter started much like the first with some stagnant offense and trading punts for four possessions. The Mountaineers forced their first turnover of the game off Tony Fields’ interception, poised to make this a game. What ensued was the litany of red zone issues as WVU only managed two red zone field goals in the second half, while going 2-7 on third downs including 0-2 in the redzone.
The Mountaineer defense stood tall in the second half and gave the offense every chance they should have needed to put points on the board, but it was not to be. Oklahoma State got the ball back late in the 4th quarter and capped off a 15 play, 80-yard drive with a 23-yard TD run by Chuba Hubbard. The Cowboy playmakers did their damage on this last drive with Tylan Wallace converting a big third down and Hubbard icing the game. Oklahoma State was 3-3 on third down conversions on the final drive after being only 3-10 up to that point in the game. In the end, the Oklahoma State star power was just too much for this young WVU team to conquer.
The keys to the game that I identified were trench play (offense and defense), defensive outside contain, and moving the chains. Only the defense looked better than last week. This unit held well at the line of scrimmage and played contain, outside of the 66 yard TD run. WVU did have some success moving the chains on third and short but shot themselves in the foot too many times and did not have the firepower to convert many third and longs. Nine times they were in a 3rd and long position and only once did they convert. Seeing more than 20 yards rushing for an entire game is a step in the right direction from the 2019 Mountaineer squad but the offensive line still needs to get better. Hopefully, this is a sign of a weird off season and early season chemistry troubles that get better each week. If not, it is going to be a slow progression.
The one thing that stood out was the inability to connect on a deep throw. Doege seemed inaccurate throwing beyond 10 yards. With a quick look, this could be blamed on the face full of Amen Ogbongbemiga and other blitzing Cowboy linebackers and safeties. The Oklahoma State secondary is decent but there were two or three opportunities for a big boy throw that was not completed, and some were not even close. That could become worrisome if the QB and receivers do not get on the same page going forward. The inability to stretch the field from this offense will force them to rely on a running game that is not ready to be relied on just yet.
Yes, Jarret Doege was under an immense amount of pressure all game long. However, there were throws there that he rushed or just was off target. To win games against quality opponents, you will have to be on target with a couple big throws during the game. Again, he did not get much help from his offensive line but when the opportunity was there, they were not taken.
Running Back: A
Leddie Brown was the only reason this game was a 6 point game with 3 minutes to play, simple as that. The 210 lb junior refused to be stopped at the line of scrimmage despite being met there constantly. Keeping the WVU offense from more 3rd and long situations was the key to hanging in this football game. Currently, this WVU’s best offensive player.
Outside Receivers: D
WVU has been missing an outside threat since David Sills graduated and that trend continues this year. Neither Sam James nor Bryce Ford-Wheaton seem to be able to get themselves open in one on one situations. Ford-Wheaton has a problem catching the football in general. For the second straight week a long ball hit his hands and he has not come up with it. Granted, these balls are not always exactly where they need to be, but they are certainly catchable.
Inside Receievers: B
The inside receivers stepped up to keep some pressure off the WVU running game with a mid-game adjustment that focused on exploiting the middle of the Cowboys defense. Winston Wright had a huge game with 6 snags and 127 yards including a 70 yard touchdown. TJ Simmons looked like he was on a mission to right his wrongs and made a few big plays. All in all, this unit was solid today.
Offensive Line: D
Half of this line would get a grade of C while the other half would get an F. The right side of the line was downright ugly. This showed in pass protection as well as the rushing yards by side of the field. WVU averaged almost 5 yards a carry when running on the left side of the center, and less than 1 yard per carry when running to the right side. It is not easy to win a game when you only have half the field to work with.
Defensive Line: B
Nothing too flashy here. Darius Stills played a better game than he did a two weeks ago and the line wreaked some havoc in the OK St backfield. They held their own against a big offensive line. This is probably the best position group there is on the WVU roster so this should be expected.
Tony Fields had himself a solid day. He forced WVU’s only turnover and was around the football all day. The outside backers were up and down. VanDarius Cowan made a few plays in the backfield but a couple times he and Josh Chandler-Semedo were caught out of position allowing the Cowboys running backs to get a big hitter.
Defensive Backs: C
Playing a true freshman quarterback, it is always tough to tell how well the secondary is playing. On the few pass attempts that Oklahoma State completed, there was very little yardage after catch. That is the good part. The bad part, in the end, the Cowboys got the completions they needed to ice the game and the defense could not get off the field. It wasn’t a bad performance by the secondary, but it wasn’t great either. Tykee Smith and Alonzo Addae continue to lay the lumber and that is always good to see.
Special Teams: F
I don’t even want to talk about it. Clean it up.
Offensive Player of the Game: Leddie Brown
Brown ran for 103 yards on 26 carries and kept WVU’s offense in prime positions to strike. Second straight 100 yard game for Brown which were hard to come by in 2019. It was a lot tougher churning in the second half but still earns Brown offensive honors.
Defensive Player of the Game: Tony Fields
Fields forced the lone WVU turnover on the day that put the Mountaineers with their best field position of the second half and allowed them to chip away at the Cowboys lead. He also added 8 total tackles to go with the 10 he had Week 1, and leads the team going into the third game with 18 total tackles.
Next week WVU will host Baylor on ABC at noon. Baylor knocked off Kansas 47-14 to start off their season.
Let’s Go Mountaineers!