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Neal Brown, West Virginia Looking to Get Run Game Back on Track

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West Virginia’s offense was tagged with being unsuccessful running the ball for the first time this season in Saturday’s matchup with Texas.

The Longhorns’ presence inside the box gave the Mountaineers fits the entire contest, turning the offense’s primary gameplan to the air and leading to a season low in both rushing attempts and yards.

“Credit Texas,” Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown said during Tuesday’s news conference. “Their interior defensive line really controlled the line of scrimmage. We weren’t able to get up to the second level in the run game, and that was a huge factor. We didn’t run the ball very well at all.”

The Longhorns played primarily with a head-up nose tackle for the duration of the game, which is a setup Brown noted he did not see often when studying Texas’ film.

Nose guard Keondre Coburn and defensive tackles Moro Ojomo and T’Vondre Sweat, combined with a mixture of defensive ends, prevented West Virginia from being able to peel off its double team blocks and get to the second level. This allowed Longhorn linebackers Jaylon Ford and DeMarvion Overshown to consistently make tackles just beyond the line of scrimmage, allowing a longest run of just 14 yards.

Texas nickel safety Jerrin Thompson also had a hand in preventing successful plays on the ground, compiling 10 tackles by simply adjusting off of short pass coverage. Ford recorded a game-high 14 tackles, while Overshown tallied eight. No West Virginia player had more than seven.

“Those guys are good players,” Brown said of the Texas defense. “I don’t want to discount that. We knew that going in. Credit to them. Their defensive tackles are solid, and the edges played better than I had seen them play so far this season.

“On us, we didn’t do as good of a job getting movement (as in prior games). Their ‘Mike’ and ‘Will’ linebackers (Ford and Overshown) were making plays untouched.”

West Virginia entered the contest averaging 217 yards on the ground, but Brown quickly abandoned the run-heavy gameplan that helped the Mountaineers earn their two wins.

Eight of West Virginia’s first nine offensive plays were passing, and after going down 28-0 in the second quarter, it was too late to turn back to the run game. The Mountaineers finished with 30 carries for 61 yards, less than half of its previous game-low of 146 against Kansas in Week 2.

This led to the Mountaineers having quarterback JT Daniels attempt a season-high 48 passes. He also took three sacks.

“Our ID’s as an offensive line were good, and our communication was good,” Brown said. “We just certainly don’t want to be a team that has to throw as many times as we did.”

The offensive backfield will now be looking to get back on track without star running back CJ Donaldson, who suffered an injury and was carted off the field against the Longhorns. Brown had already ruled out Donaldson against Baylor next Saturday.

Justin Johnson and Tony Mathis are now set to guide the run game in Donaldson’s absence against Baylor (3-2), the second of four consecutive matchups with teams from the Lone Star State. The Bears have allowed just 96.8 rushing yards per game through five contests, which ranks 20th in the FBS.

Brown still remains confident in his group.

“Schematically, we’re going to continue to grow,” Brown said. “We’ve had good answers the first four games. There’s things we can tie up. It’s gonna be a real struggle if we’re only rushing for 61 yards. We know we’re better than that, and we’re more capable of it.”

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