(Photo Courtesy of si.com)
West Virginia showed a team we hadn’t yet seen in 2020 early against TCU. Completing chunk passes, converting third downs at a high rate, and finishing drives with touchdowns. A healthy Leddie Brown was a beautiful sight to see. Receivers making plays for Jarret Doege was just the icing on top. Where has this team been all season?
WVU marched 99 yards in 15 plays on their first drive, capped off by a Doege 1 yard TD run. In the process, the Mountaineers burned half of the first quarter clock. Most impressively, WVU converted four third downs on the drive. TCU just couldn’t come up with a stop when it mattered, which is a good sign for the Mountaineer offense that they are capable of imposing their will. An even better sign was that this will was imposed not only on the ground but through the air.
TJ Simmons was the receiver du jour for the Mountaineers as he hauled in WVU’s second touchdown on a 26 yard strike between the zone defense and another back shoulder TD grab in the 4th quarter. Simmons, who has been quiet for most of the season, was so happy he ran to the sideline and called the box right away to say “I love you. Thank you”. No, TJ, thank you. It’s about time some receivers started stepping up.
The opening drive of the third quarter saw WVU drain another 7 minutes off the clock but unable to come up with a touchdown in the red zone. A Casey Legg 42 yard field goal would push the lead to 17-6. TCU was able to get the ball moving a bit on the next two drives but as the field shrunk, the Mountaineer defense was able to buckle down, force punts, and turnovers. A muffed punt and an interception at the goal line iced the game for WVU late for a final score of 24-6.
WVU was able to put points on the board in each of the four quarters including a touchdown in three of the four. The defense was stingy all day, holding Max Duggan’s completion percentage right around 50% all day without allowing a big play. Duggan was also held in check on the ground showing 10 carries for 19 yards after exploding for over 100 last week. This defense has answered the call each week and continues to give the Mountaineers every opportunity to win.
WVU solidly controlled the game in all facets. Dominating time of possession, the line of scrimmage, and punching the ball in the end zone. The biggest takeaway was the improvement from the pass game. Jarret Doege completed 19 of 26 passes for 212 yards and 2 TD’s. No it wasn’t the big yardage numbers we’ve seen the last few weeks but the shear efficiency and decision making leading to scores is what sets this performance apart. 8.2 yards per attempt is well above his 7.1 average on the season thanks to the shot plays that were finally completed. This was a total team win on all three sides of the ball and puts WVU 4-3 in conference with two games left to play.
Jarret Doege had his best performance as a Mountaineer today. Was it a career high in touchdowns? No. Was it a career high in yards? No. It was a career best in efficiently taking what the defense gave him, decision making, and moving the offense down the field. The receivers helped for the first time all season and it proved to be a complete performance from the WVU offense.
Running back: B
Leddie Brown gave us everything and more than we expected today. A bum leg didn’t seem to slow him down as he put up 156 yards on 24 carries. The B rating comes from the support he gets in the running game. Alec Sinkfield can’t seem to quite figure it out. He doesn’t always get put in the best spots but vision still seems to be an issue. Sinkfield still misses holes and cutbacks that are open. Yes, it’s easier to say that after the fact but sometimes getting 3-4 yards is better than stretching to the sideline that isn’t there.
If this receiving play had been here all year this team could be close to undefeated. Each week it seems to be a different guy taking the brunt of the load and today was no different. TJ Simmons had his best game as a Mountaineer, 4 catches, 90 yards, and 2 TD’s. We don’t need a standout guy each week to be successful. But we will need 2-3 guys to be completely reliable and we have yet to see that. Winston Wright Jr continues to be a nice extension of the run game. I’d like to see this group have two reliable assets one week, outside of Wright.
Offensive Line: C
An overall decent performance from the offensive line. Paved the way to another 392 yards of offense, evenly split, 212 pass, 180 rush. It’s good to see this unit is indeed better than last year. The issue now seems to be stepping up on big plays. When it’s an obvious passing down, they miss one on one blocks. A run wrinkle block is tough to execute for them. The motions are there, the execution is not. Start executing these and this team is well rounded enough to beat anyone in the country.
Defensive Line: B
Just another above average day at the office for the defensive line. Not well above average but just above average. One sack is all they could muster. I can’t really complain, I did say TFL’s would be tough to come by. The boys stayed at home and kept TCU under 4 yards per carry. Duggan didn’t escape to make plays. Just a do your job kind of day from this group.
TCU ran 63 plays and according to Fox, Tony Fields had 107 tackles. No not really, but he did have 15 to add to his Big 12 lead. Follow the ball and you’ll see Tony Fields in about a half a second. This dude is that good. Like Big 12 defensive player of the year good. The best sign? Depth. Exree Loe stepped in and didn’t just do well, he exceeded. 12 tackles for the “backup” this week. Not a bad day of flying around and making plays for the second level.
Defensive Backs: B
This group just doesn’t allow any YAC. You can catch the ball but you might as well fall down. They take chances and make plays. Sometimes too many chances. Two bad blown coverages by Dreshun Miller could’ve had the score looking a lot different than 24-6. The first of which was a touchdown that Duggan just completely threw out of the end zone. The second led to TCU’s biggest pass play of the year with a 52 yard ball to Emari Demercado. Luckily, Tykee Smith erased that with an interception at the goal line to bump this grade back up to a B.
Special Teams: B
Even with the missed 40 yard field goal, this was the best game from the Mountaineers’ special teams. Legg looks to be reliable enough to continue as the kicker going forward even if Evan Staley comes back. Winston Wright almost broke a kick return. It’s nice to see the special teams unit finally helping out the offense with some yardage of their own. Finally, Tyler Sumpter just keeps doing his job and pinning the opponent deep in their territory. Solid performance to build on for the Teams unit.
Offensive Player of the Game: TJ Simmons
ALERT: Back to back weeks with a wide receiver as the offensive player of the game. I thought I’d never see the day. A career performance from TJ Simmons this week earns him the honors. Not only did Simmons put up career high numbers, he became the first WVU receiver with a multi touchdown game this season. I asked last week can Isaiah Esdale become the reliable guy. Can Simmons?
Defensive Player of the Game: Tony Fields
Fields could probably be named the defensive player of the game every single week. We just have to give it to other people sometimes. It’s not fair. But this week it wouldn’t be fair to NOT give it to him. 15 more tackles today. This man could end up being the best one year wonder in WVU transfer history. He will be making a lot of money on Sundays next year. And probably add some bling to the trophy case with some post season awards.
The Mountaineers get a week off before hosting Oklahoma on November 28th. Game time has yet to be announced. Oklahoma has a bye week this week and Bedlam next week.