The strength of West Virginia’s offense this season has largely been its running game.
WVU football coach Neal Brown has often leaned on junior running back Leddie Brown this season and for good reason. Leddie Brown is the second-leading rusher in the Big 12 this season, with 741 yards and nine touchdowns.
Against Texas (5-2, 4-2) on Saturday, however, Leddie Brown was fairly ineffective, carrying the ball 15 times for just 47 yards. After the game, Neal Brown said this was due to a combination of injury and Texas’ defense.
“Leddie wasn’t 100% today. He was fine in practice, got dinged up early in the game on the first drive,” Neal Brown said. “[We] struggled in the run game, which I wasn’t totally surprised by. I didn’t think we’d struggle to this point, but we did. I think some of that was due to their size and their ability and some of it was we weren’t 100% there either.”
Without Leddie Brown’s usual level of play, the Mountaineers (4-3, 3-3 Big 12) became one-dimensional on offense. WVU had season-lows in rushing attempts (26) and total rushing yards (43) Quarterback Jarret Doege threw the ball 50 times compared to just 21 total rushes by WVU running backs. In the second half especially, Doege threw the ball 27 times to just eight runs.
Neal Brown said having to throw that much worked to get the offense going, Doege passed for 317 yards, but hurt because there was less margin for error.
“It’s a little bit of a double-edged sword because we weren’t in a position to get negative plays,” Brown said. “If we got in third and long, it was going to be a really tough time for us today just because the matchups weren’t favorable for us. We really tried to work and stay in some third and mediums and third and shorts.”
Texas coach Tom Herman said after the game that the Longhorns’ plan was to make it difficult for WVU to run the ball, especially on third anf fourth downs.
“We were in cover zero for all three [fourth downs],” Herman said. “Logic on this game is, on fourth and one you’ve got to stop the run and you’ve got to sell out to stop the run. You’re talking about plus-two [defenders in the box], the defense is right there on the line of scrimmage. We forced them to be one dimensional and our secondary did a great job covering them.”
West Virginia was just 6-16 on third down and 0-3 on fourth down Saturday. The final two fourth-down attempts came inside the Texas 20-yard line and could have turned the game in the Mountaineers’ favor. Without an effective running game, however, Neal Brown elected to pass on both, with neither one connecting.
In its four wins this season, WVU has averaged 218 rushing yards. In three losses, the Mountaineers has averaged just 67.3 rushing yards.