(Photo Courtesy of wvusports.com)
Have you ever had a bad dream, inside of a bad dream? Like a double bad dream? That’s what watching this WVU team was like in the first half. Less than 6 minutes into the game, the 21 point underdog Kansas Jayhawks held a 10-0 lead. TJ Simmons fumbled on the first drive to give Kansas the ball at the WVU 23 yard line. Kansas tacked on a field goal. After a WVU three and out, Kansas took advantage of Nicktroy’s “Mis”Fortune. Fortune perfectly undercut a seam route by Andrew Parchment and couldn’t squeeze the easy interception. This popped the ball into the air, right into Parchement’s hands for a 43 yard TD grab. Credit to the Jayhawks as they came out and punched WVU right in the mouth.
The second quarter offered better results moving the ball for the WVU offense. Leddie Brown found a lot of room off the left side of the line to rack up 88 rushing yards by halftime. This was the lone bright spot for the offense. Name a wide receiver on the roster; I bet they dropped a pass in the first half. Sam James must have dipped his hands in butter before the game. If it wasn’t for timely Kansas penalties extending WVU drives, I’m not sure the Mountaineers put up the two touchdowns they wound up getting. The defense was a different story. They buckled down and held the Jayhawk offense to just 79 yards and two turnovers after giving up the early TD. Alonzo Addae intercepted a Miles Kendrick pass while Darius Stills added to his highlight reel with a diving interception off a deflection.
The Mountaineers spent most of the third quarter playing the same sloppy football on offense, with a stifling defense. A Doege interception and a Sean Ryan unsportsmanlike penalty threw the offense off rhythm. Have no fear, Leddie Brown was still here. Brown took a trap play up the middle for an 87 yard TD late in the 3rd quarter to extend the lead to 14. This opened up the WVU offense a bit more. The Kansas defense wore down and couldn’t pressure Doege as much as they did earlier. Doege put the ball on target; receivers caught the ball.
Sam James opened the 4th quarter with an 8 yard TD catch after three first half drops. Akheem Mesidor added to his stellar freshman season with two sacks. The superior team finally took this game over. For most of this game, Kansas had only run half the plays that WVU had. Aside from the 43 yard fluke touchdown catch in the first quarter, Kendrick and the offense could not move the ball. Kansas produced just 157 yards compared to 544 for WVU. The disparity finally got to them. A valiant effort for the Jayhawks in Morgantown finally fizzled out. WVU finished off a strong final 18 minutes with a 38-17 win.
The same problems for this WVU offense kept them from a 3-4 score lead at halftime. 8 penalties for 76 yards, a fumble, an interception and poor pass protection left Leddie Brown to pick up the slack. Disappointing results early from an offense that was looking to expose a terrible Kansas defense. Doege and company moved the ball well, but the inefficiency is still there. 6 for 16 on third downs, dropped passes, and mental penalties are all things you would hope could be cleaned up against Kansas. Yes, it’s a young team, but we’re now through four games. These kids have been playing football for most of their lives, mental errors need to be gone soon. Otherwise this will be a long stretch run to cap off the season.
One less mistake this week from Jarret Doege, a very bad interception on a tunnel screen. Improvement in the turnover area is always nice. However, his inaccuracy is starting to become a huge issue for an offense that needs to make the easy plays. They may be few and far between but these plays are going to need to be made, and have to be made by the experienced quarterback. No, it’s not time for a QB change, but if this offense struggles for an entire game; it may be time.
Running back: A
Leddie Brown is the staple of this offense. Without him, WVU might not win this game. I know the scoreboard doesn’t show a close game, but without Brown’s huge performance it’s an entirely different result. I know I said Brown and Sinkfield could both go for 100 this game, but almost 200 from Brown is perfectly acceptable. Career day for Leddie, this offense runs through him.
This is the worst receiving corps I’ve seen in Morgantown in my lifetime. Sam James with three first half drops. He wasn’t the only one with butterfingers. Almost every receiver dropped a perfectly catchable ball. Aside from that, none of them can beat one on one coverage. If you can’t get yourself open, at least catch the ball when it gets to your hands. Like I’ve said before, Doege isn’t the best quarterback we’ve seen. Not even close. But he’s serviceable enough that the receivers can make SOME plays for him.
Offensive Line: C
I expected an even better performance against this Kansas defense even with James Gmiter out. While the run blocking was great, 226 yards great, the pass protection was downright awful. Zach Frazier got his first big welcome to college football this week, struggling the entire day to even get a piece of a blitzing linebacker. It was another week of Doege getting hit, altering throws, and panicking due to a lack of protection. Hopefully this gets cleaned up with a healthy Gmiter, but it seems more realistic that this is just the hand WVU was dealt this year.
Defensive Line: B
I wouldn’t say this was the best game from the defensive line, hence the B rating. But this unit played as good as it needed to, maybe a little better. Darius Stills is continuing to disappear during spurts of games. The youngster Mesidor is putting himself in the conversation for the Freshman All Big 12 team. All in all, 5 sacks and 62 yards rushing is a good sign the defensive line had a good day.
Kansas kept the second level of the Mountaineer defense spread out with quick throws and stretch plays. This group responded. I asked for 10-12 tackles for loss and by my unofficial count, WVU racked up 12 of those. A lot of them weren’t necessarily created by the defensive line but great pursuit on the outside stretch plays by Josh Chandler-Semedo and the secondary. This has been the most improved group since the Oklahoma State game and just adds to the dominating defense the Mountaineers already have.
Defensive Backs: B
An underrated and underappreciated group just continues to do their job. In fact, they do it well. Had Nicktroy Fortune dropped the early TD Kansas put up, WVU would’ve had three interceptions today. In fact, WVU may have dropped more interceptions than they’ve caught this season. That’s why they play defense though right? Either way that shows this group is in the right spots. Being in the right spot is half the battle. Tykee Smith is an excellent tackler. The entire back half of the defense flies to the ball. If the secondary continues to play at this level in the upcoming weeks, you will see this defense as the top defense in the Big 12
Special Teams: D
WVU needs a kicker and they need one bad. Evan Staley can’t connect outside of 40 yards. The Mountaineers can’t continue to miss out on early scoring opportunities whether its three points or seven. They need the points as they can get them and a reliable kicker will help down the road. The kick coverage gave up a late return TD in another dismal performance for the special teams unit as a whole.
Offensive Player of the Game: Leddie Brown
Brown earns his second player of the game award this season with 195 yards on 18 carries and a TD. 5 receptions, 36 yards, and another TD padded his rushing stats. He continues to be the heart and soul of this WVU offense. It’s not like defenses aren’t keying on Brown this year either. Upwards of 50% of his yards this season have come after contact. This man will put an offense on his back if need be and he did it for three quarters today. Keeping up this performance could earn Brown four or five more of these awards.
Defensive Player of the Game: Akheem Mesidor
With opposing offenses keying mostly on Darius Stills, Mesidor is the clear beneficiary of less attention. Mesidor added two more sacks on back to back plays after a huge WVU touchdown drive. This blew open the game and pretty much sealed the win. Mesidor is playing like a seasoned vet but is only a true freshman that arrived in August. It seems WVU has found their next dominating defensive lineman for the future.
Next Saturday WVU travels to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech at 5:30 et on ESPN2. Texas Tech will be coming off a bye week with a new starting quarterback Henry Colombi.