At Texas Tech last week, West Virginia football converted on just four of 15 third-down attempts.
The Mountaineers lost that game to the Red Raiders, who converted 8-16 third-down attempts, by one score, 34-27.
Fast forward one week and WVU had a much better showing on third downs during its 37-10 upset of No. 16 Kansas State Saturday. The Mountaineers converted on 9-18 third-downs against the Wildcats.
“I thought we had a good plan coming in,” WVU football coach Neal Brown said after the game. “The other thing is, we avoided third-and-long. We didn’t necessarily have third-and-short, but we didn’t have a whole bunch of third-and-longs so that helped. They got us on the first third down when we didn’t convert on the opening series pick but after that, I think we settled in and had good plays and good execution.”
The Mountaineers had three third-downs of less than five yards, nine between 5-10 yards and only two of over 10 yards. They had 10 third downs in the first half, six in the third quarter and just two in the fourth. WVU gained an average of 4.3 yards on first down against the Wildcats. West Virginia ran the ball 24 out of 32 times on first down for 110 yards.
Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said WVU’s success came from being able to limit KSU’s pass rush.
“(We) didn’t make plays,” Klieman said. “They did a good job blocking our pass rush. We brought pressure a couple times. (We) didn’t get home, and we didn’t play really good man coverage.”
WVU quarterback Jarret Doege was 11-12 for 152 yards on third down. The Mountaineers picked up seven first downs by throwing the ball. Doege was sacked just twice the entire game.
“We didn’t pass some things off in coverage as well,” Klieman said. “It wasn’t the defensive line, it wasn’t the linebackers, it wasn’t the secondary, it was everybody. We just didn’t play well enough on third down. We didn’t execute well enough, and we need to be better, but we need to be better as coaches on third down, as well as the players.”
Brown pointed out that WVU’s success Saturday was a turnaround from happened the last time these teams met, a game that WVU also won.
“We didn’t play very well at all versus them last year on third down so we really did a complete 180,” Brown said.
Despite winning 24-20, the Mountaineers were just 4-12 on third down against Kansas State in their game last season. Saturday was the second time this season the Mountaineers faced 18 third downs, but the nine conversions were the most in a single game so far this year.