MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Following two harsh losses to the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Tech Red Raiders to start conference play, the WVU Mountaineers football team (2-3) didn’t suffer the conference and national rankings plummet that some may have expected.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
WVU offensive coordinator Gerad Parker’s offense, which produced only 109 yards of total offense in the first half of last Saturday’s 23-20 loss to the Red Raiders, continues to top the conference rankings. Week 5 finds Parker’s unit at No. 7 in the Big 12 in scoring offense, including a No. 3 conference ranking in passing offense; that 264.4 yards per game threshold also places WVU’s offensive passing at No. 42 nationally.
Parker’s red zone offense also ranks No. 3 in the Big 12, behind only the Sooners and Texas Longhorns. The Mountaineers have gained 14 touchdowns off 87 percent of red zone plays, including two touchdowns against Texas Tech.
WVU’s passing quarterback, redshirt senior Jarret Doege finished his Texas Tech performance 25-33 with 318 yards passing. His season passing (98-150) for 1207 yards, four interceptions, and seven touchdowns slots him into No. 2 in the Big 12, only topped by Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Spencer Rattler. He also finds his passing yardage good enough to capture No. 36 in the nation and No. 40 per game (241.40).
Senior running back Leddie Brown‘s seven touchdowns secure his spot as part of a 10-way tie for No. 23 in the nation in total touchdowns. He now drops three spots from last week’s national rankings, and his touchdown scoring drops one spot in the Big 12 Conference from last week’s No. 3. Brown is also part of a 19-way tie for No. 21 nationally for his rushing touchdown prowess specifically.
Brown’s offensive teammate, junior wide receiver Winston Wright Jr. racked in the Week 5 national awards. He posted 106 receiving yards against Texas Tech, amounting to 682 all-purpose yards through five games. His all-purpose yardage, 278 receiving, 407 from kickoff returns, and -3 from punt return, places him 18th in the country; his 407 yards on 12 attempts also ranks him third nationally for kickoff returns and tied for first in combined kick return yardage. WVU has Wright Jr. to thank for its No. 2 in-conference (only topped by the Kansas State Wildcats) and No. 6 national kickoff return rankings as well.
On the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, WVU defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley’s unit crushed this week’s conference and national rankings, as per usual. Although the Texas Tech matchup was not the defensive production that Mountaineer fans have become accustomed to, the team still faired well in the Week 5 rankings.
It landed two spots lower than last week’s No. 25 in scoring defense, amounting to a No. 3 ranking in the Big 12. Nine touchdowns and 18 points per game allowed only trails Iowa State and Baylor. It also ranks No. 3 in the Big 12 in rushing defense behind the Sooners and Wildcats. Coach Lesley’s defensive scheme bumps up two spots to 34th in national total defense, allowing 315.8 yards per game on 333 plays.
In the red zone, historically this defense’s bread and butter, allowing two Texas Tech touchdowns hurt the national standings. It fell six spots to No. 10 nationally and lands at No. 3 in the Big 12.
Individually, the West Virginia secondary also garnered conference and national rankings.
Redshirt junior defensive end Taijh Alston‘s eight tackles for loss help him to a No. 9 national ranking, and the WVU defense’s 45 total TFLs to No. 2 in the country. Alston’s five total sacks also boost him to a nine-way tie for No. 14 nationally; WVU’s 17 total sacks account for a loss of 103 opponent yards, a four-way sacks per game tie for No. 12 in the country (3.40), and an uncontested lead in the Big 12.
Fellow D-lineman, senior defensive tackle Dante Stills‘ four solo sacks solidify him as part of a 10-way tie for 30th in the country. The two combine to push opponents back 51 yards.
The redshirt junior is the only Big 12 conference kicker who still sits at 1.000; he’s just barely topped in production by Oklahoma’s Gabe Brkic, who’s made 11 of his 13. Legg’s 8 for 8 field goal attempt ratio places him in a 20-way tie for first in the nation; the eight-make threshold also specifically bumps his percentage into the top-7 of those 20 kickers for frequency.
He also ranks 15th in the nation for field goals per game (1.60). Thanks to Legg, WVU’s special teams squad finds itself tied at No. 1 with Texas Tech (6-6) for conference field goal accuracy.