Running the football with success and playing solid defense come hand-in-hand when it comes to winning.
Through eight games, West Virginia has had a tough time being successful at either.
One thing that is becoming an issue is the time the Mountaineers defense is on the field. Time of possession doesn’t necessarily equate to wins or losses all the time, but it can definitely have an impact. The Mountaineers are 1-7 on the season when it comes to winning the time of possession battle, and the defense is allowing an average of 479.5 yards per game over the last two weeks after being on the field for just over 36 minutes per contest.
There have been 3 games this season where the opponent has had the ball for 36 minutes or more: Delaware State (37:48), Baylor (36:49) and Oklahoma State (37:09). Yes, the Mountaineers are 2-1 in those games, but could very easily be 1-2.
How does West Virginia cut a few minutes off their defense?
It all begins with running the football and sticking to it.
Last year, Dana stuck with the run game even if it took a while for it to get in rhythm. This year you aren’t seeing that. The offensive line has struggled, but that does not mean it is wise to shy away from the running the football. The offense is almost becoming too predictable the last two weeks, which is why we have seen so many three-and-outs the last 5 quarters. Three-and-outs equate to short time of possession and gassing out your own defense. It’s pretty plain and simple – the Mountaineers must hold onto the ball longer. The defense came away with 4 turnovers at home and still lost by 11 against Oklahoma State.
That is unacceptable.
Your defense is giving you extra opportunities, yet nothing comes of it. Oklahoma State ran 90 plays (18 more than WVU) on Saturday and if you give the best offense in the country more chances, more than likely the outcome won’t be what you had hoped for. The week prior, Baylor ran 82 plays (16 more than WVU). In games where West Virginia performed well in losses, the time of possession was not a factor nor was the play count. In the opening matchup versus Virginia Tech, the time of possession was 31 minutes to 29 in favor of Virginia Tech, which is right about where you want it. The play count? West Virginia 89-72. On the road at TCU, the time favored WVU 31:21-28:39 as did the play count, 84-65.
The time a defense spends on the field isn’t everything, but it’s something that needs to be addressed.