(Photo Courtesy of WVU Athletics)

 

A dominating performance by the Stills brothers was the lone bright spot for an otherwise ugly first half from West Virginia.  The Mountaineers saw three Jarret Doege turnovers kill momentum for the offense and keep them from at least another 6 points.  A late scratch for the offensive line in James Gmiter (positive COVID-19 test) was another hit to an already below average group.  However, the offensive line gave Doege more time than was available at Oklahoma State last week.  WVU was able to methodically move the ball down the field with a mix of short passes and runs and found a way to punch in their first red zone touchdown of the Big 12 season for a 7-0 lead.  The wheels then fell off for Doege as he fumbled and threw two interceptions in four drives.

 

If not for the Mountaineers stifling defense, this game could have been even uglier early.  Darius Stills backed up his “soft” comment about the Baylor line with 1.5 sacks in the first half and brother Dante enjoyed his time in the backfield as well.  The Bears found the endzone for their only first half score after Doege’s second interception was returned to the WVU 30.  A questionable pass interference call eliminated a Nicktroy Fortune interception on the very next play after the Doege turnover.  The Bears then turned that into a 7 yard TD pass from Charlie Brewer to R.J. Sneed.  Baylor only found marginal success on a few running plays late in the second quarter but the WVU defense anchored down and forced a punt with just over a minute remaining in the half.  John Lovett and Trestan Ebner could not find any holes to run averaging just 2.2 yards per rush in the first half.  WVU gave Baylor an opportunity to score after virtually every turnover but kick John Mayers missed a 46 and 48 yard field goal.  WVU also blocked Noah Rauschenberg field goal attempt to end the half.

 

Fortunately, the Mountaineers were able to kick the turnover train for the third quarter.  Unfortunately, costly penalties and ineffective 1st down plays plagues the offense to the tune of just nine total yards until a 11 play 72 yard touchdown drive towards the end of the third quarter.  The defense continued to dominate with three third quarter sacks and keeping the Bears to just 10 total yards.  Brewer had no time to stand in the pocket and any running lanes closed quickly.  It seemed the WVU run defense benefited from a small shift of Tony Fields to an outside position with VanDarius Cowan not available for the game.  On the other side, Josh Chandler-Semedo played almost a perfect first half and continued to set the edge defensively.  Through three quarters, WVU seemed to be riding its defense to a grind it out win.

 

The sloppy turnover disease reappeared midway through the 4th quarter for WVU.  Bryce Ford-Wheaton inexplicably ran into Alec Sinkfield as he attempted to field a punt and Baylor recovered at the WVU 26.  Six plays later, Dreshun Miller had his second interception of the day overturned after his left foot barely touched the back line of the end zone.  The stout Mountaineer defense stood its ground for a grueling 3:30 as they stopped Baylor on a 4th and Goal from the 1 yard line to end the threat.  WVU was unable to run the final 4:49 off the clock and had to punt the ball back to Baylor with just over 2 minutes left in the game.  Baylor started the drive with two incomplete passes.  Another incompletion on third down held this game in the hands of a Baylor 4th down conversion, but Tony Fields was flagged for an unnecessary conduct hit on Sneed giving Baylor new life. Two plays later Brewer hit Josh Fleeks on a 34 yard crossing pattern to tie the game at 14 with 1:19 left.

It ended up taking overtime for this one to be settled and what a nail biter it was.  The Mountaineers started OT with the same inept offense that plagued the 4th quarter.  This was until a gutsy call from Neal Brown to go for it on a 4th and 1 at the 16 yard line that was successful and lead to a Ford-Wheaton go ahead 6 yard TD catch.  Baylor answered on the very next play with a 25 yard TD toss to Ben Sims on a blown coverage in the WVU secondary.  Tykee Smith went ahead and made the play of the game opening the second OT, intercepting Brewer and giving WVU a chance to kick a field goal to win.  That would not be necessary as Leddie Brown but the squad on his back.  3 carries, 12 yards capped off by a three yard TD run to win it was all she wrote 27-21.

 

 

Position Grades:

Offense

Quarterback: C

Jarret Doege was under much less pressure than he was a week ago.  Ford-Wheaton and Sam James still are not helping this offense AT ALL.  Yes, I know Ford-Wheaton caught a touchdown in OT.  This needs to come with more consistency.  Can Doege be more accurate? Absolutely.  The balls that hit these guys in the hands need to be caught, accurate or not.  Three turnovers and questionable situational awareness get Doege a grade of a C.  Listen, Doege is not going to put up numbers like quarterbacks of the past.  He is not going to be as accurate and smooth as them either.  But this is an experienced quarterback that needs to clean up his play for this team to succeed.

Running back: B

The backs did enough to keep the field open for the pass game.  The bell cow Leddie Brown still needs some help up front, everyone does.  Sinkfield found some gaps and popped a few big runs.  At the biggest spot in the game this group could not get the runs necessary to get a first down and ice the game in regulation.  Brown decided this was his game in the second OT though.  All in all, these two looked decent, but we are going to need a bit more to be dangerous.

Receivers: D

They just need to be better. Plain and simple.  Ford-Wheaton, James, Jennings, whoever you want to put in there.  Either get open, or catch the ball, their choice.  Jarret Doege is not going to throw open is receivers every single time the way Geno Smith or Will Grier would.  But when the ball gets to your hands or chest, there is no excuse.  Ford-Wheaton looks lost on the field. An offensive line improvement will help this group but they need to be able to help themselves.

Offensive Line: C

These guys took a big hit when James Gmiter was scratched Friday morning with a positive COVID-19 test.  We first want to wish him a full and speedy recovery.  Second, this was an improvement.  No, they did not walk all over the Baylor defensive line but Doege had more time in the pocket and produced 134 team rushing yards.  I said in the preview 120-140 rushing yards would be an improvement and the reshuffled offensive line was able to come through.

Defense

Defensive Line: A

“They’re soft up front.” Do I need to say anything else?  4.5 sacks, 2.5 from Darius Stills who gave us that accurate quote last season.  Stills added another TFL to his stat sheet as well.  0.8 yards per rush for the Baylor offense, albeit helped with sacks involved.  Take those away and Lovett led the Baylor offense with 1.6 yards per rush.  The most talented position group on the roster did its job today.

Linebackers: A

Much like the offensive line, the linebackers had to do a bit of reshuffling with Cowan being out for the game.  This seemed to find a solid rotation of linebackers as Fields spent a decent amount of time at outside linebacker on running downs.  19 combined tackles between Fields and Chandler-Semedo turned a weakness against Oklahoma State into a strength against Baylor.  This helped keep the longest rush (not by a Brewer scramble) to 9 yards.  That is a recipe for success.

Defensive Backs: B

I really like this group.  They did not play perfect today, but they are quick decisive.  Dreshun Miller had what would have been two interceptions wiped away.  Eventually did end up getting one for himself deep in WVU territory.  Tykee Smith gave the offense a chance to win in OT with a HUGE interception on the first play of the second OT.  There were some coverage fails, most notably the first play in the first OT that tied the game again for Baylor.  I like the chances the secondary takes and I think the biggest strength of this group is their ability to limit yards after catch.

Special Teams: D

Only because Leddie Brown made sure Evan Staley and the field goal unit did not have a chance to screw up a game winner.  A kickoff out of bounds and a “what the… what were you thinking?!?!” moment when Ford-Wheaton ran Sinkfield over before he could field a punt; this will keep WVU on ESPN’s Not Top 10 for weeks to come.  Tyler Sumpter is not putting up huge numbers but he is barely keeping WVU ahead in field position battles.  This unit has taken over the offensive line as the unit with the most to improve.

Offensive Player of the Game: Mike O’Laughlin/TJ Banks

These guys will not show big numbers in the box score but the effectiveness of O’Laughlin and TJ Banks in the run game cannot be overstated.  WVU did a lot of blocking schemes moving the end of the line of scrimmage closer to the spot of the ball, allowing the backs to bounce it quicker to the outside.  Some of these blocking schemes included more tight end movement across the formation to block onside and backside defenders, springing the backs even more.  I’m not sure of the splits with percentage of plays that a tight end was on the field this week but I would believe it is more than was used last week and that proved to help this run game.  O’Laughlin caught the biggest ball of the day on 4th and 1 in OT and that gives him and Banks the game ball on the offensive side.

Defensive Player of the Game: Darius Stills

“They’re soft up front.”

After a week off, WVU hosts Kansas on Oct. 17th.  Kansas has Oklahoma State this afternoon and an off week next week.  Until then, Country Roads on repeat.