A Look Inside...Game Five

This game offers a bit more excitement than most Mountaineer fans would expect at first glance, and one should note that Bowling Green has more than enough ability to stay with West Virginia – if it continues to self-inflict mistakes.

BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Sat 10/1/11 3:30 PM

Morgantown, WV

Mountaineer Field
Record: 3-1
Poll: 23/22
Last Game
LSU L 21-47
Radio: Sirius 91
Web: BlueGoldNews.com
Record: 3-1
Poll: UR
Last Game
Miami (OH) W 37-23
Press Release
Season Stats
2011 Schedule

Series: WVU 2-0
First Meeting: 1988
Last Meeting: 1991
Press Release
Season Stats
2011 Schedule

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast

Much like WVU, the Falcons had the opportunity to be unbeaten if not for a myriad of turnovers in one game (28-27 loss to Wyoming). And, again like WVU, the team gains most of its yardage in the air, as quarterback Matt Schilz rates as the sixth best passer in yardage numbers in the FBS (Geno Smith is third, behind a pair of other Dana Holgorsen-coached QBs in Case Keenum and Brandon Weeden). So if you're operating in the odd stack, how does one go about slowing a quality passer?

  • First, West Virginia needs far better pressure. How to produce it? Well, having better athletes, as West Virginia does in this match-up (and didn't vs. LSU) helps. Schematically, the ability to bring players from a variety of areas in the odd stack will be paramount. The Mountaineers should be able to handle Bowling Green one-on-one on the outside and not need to rely extremely heavily on safety help over the top, which, again, they did last week. Look for better pocket pressure for the aforementioned reasons, and check who blitzes on in-between downs, like second and six. Where does the pressure originate, and which players are rushing, and which are dropping into coverage. This will give a decent idea of what the Mountaineers might do in similar situations entering Big East play.

  • Second, and this goes in-hand with the first point, getting that additional pressure is much easier when WVU slows the run game. BGSU averages a solid 165 yards per game on the ground (336 in the air), which has been more than enough to allow Schilz and the coaching staff to pick, rather than be forced, into its passing choices.
    WVU D vs. BGSU O
      WVU BGSU
    Scoring 25.8 ppg 38.5 ppg
    Rushing 133.5 ypg 164.8 ypg
    Passing 195.2 ypg 303.8 ypg
    West Virginia simply must tackle better, and it should because, again, the match-ups are far more favorable. Check and see how well the linebackers are cleaning up plays. Where in the first few games the focus was on the interior line, let's move a level back and see if they are getting to ballcarriers cleanly and not allowing yards after contact. Is the tackling crisp, wrapping and tacking to the deck, or, like in the last two games, is there a lot of lunging and gapping the wrong holes?

    If the Mountaineers don't fit up properly and gain some exterior leverage, the Falcons should be able to run enough to keep WVU honest. That opens a lot of passing chances for a good quarterback with a decent receiving corps. Check the drops of the linebackers, how far back they are playing the pass? Are they trying to take away crossing routes and the short stuff underneath? Or is the protection more toward the back end, as it was against LSU, and not giving up anything deep? That will give one an idea of the coaching staff's confidence in the outside and individual battles against the wideouts.

  • Onto the other side of the ball. If one rolls up more than 500 yards, it would be assumed that the offense was working masterfully. But there were some issues. In the run game, the backs missed some holes that could have greatly helped. Many fans are lauding the pass protection, and rightfully so, but the run game, too, was solidly blocked and could have gained more than it did. Check the time each back is getting and see if Dustin Garrison and Shawn Alston don't appear to be gaining a hold of the starting slots. If there are holes – and this is more easily viewed upon a replay or from end zone seats – do the backs accelerate through it? Is the field vision good enough to locate lanes and get vertical? Or are there still some major hesitation steps? And see if Holgorsen gives Alston a few more chances in short yardage. Bigger body and more power usually equates to added yardage after contact.

  • West Virginia got a bit of a break in that LSU typically didn't bring more than four players on any routine down. That allowed for easier pas protection. Bowling Green should not be able to get pressure with four, and will need extra numbers. See how well WVU is picking up fifth and sixth players. Are they sliding into the areas well, communicating and shifting as needed? Does anybody on a loop or stunt get free and come untouched?
    WVU O vs. BGSU D
      WVU BGSU
    Scoring 36.8 ppg 19.8 ppg
    Rushing 76.5 ypg 95 ypg
    Passing 382.8 ypg 199 ypg
    There's no question Geno Smith's pocket feel helped some, but when a team throws almost 70 times and there are no sacks, that's about as good as it gets. If for no other reason than they will need more pressure, and can't cover in the secondary for more than four to five seconds, the Falcons will throw number advantages on the rush against West Virginia. It has proven it can use hot routes, and that communication between Smith and the receivers is decent. Let's see if the line handles the numbers. Bet here – and this isn't saying much – is that there are a few more sacks than last week.

  • Slow and sluggish. It's been the starting mantra this season for West Virginia, as the opposing team has scored first every game. I don't truly expect many signs of a hangover from the LSU game, or another stalled beginning before WVU gets rolling. But it's possible, and it could hurt against a foe that already doesn't bring the level of anticipation of an LSU or other marquee BCS foe but is quite underrated thus far on the season. If BGSU doesn't turn the ball over, this is an unbeaten team with a decent win or two on the schedule. West Virginia should come out, play crisply and quickly, and be able to surmount a solid edge by the break. Holgorsen might choose to challenge horizontally more than he did against the speedy Tigers, so look for a return to some screens that will allow the Mountaineers to use better athletes in space. The safe, short throws get the ball out, protect the passer, and eliminate many blitz attempts. They would not have worked well last week, and thus WVU had to throw downfield. But that, and perhaps an added dash of the run game to check its increasing production, will be in order.

  • West Virginia's special teams were inconsistent at best, and leaned toward poor at times against LSU. This is a game in which to watch just West Virginia and see if they can remedy some of the obvious mistakes. Corey Smith must punt better, and can't afford any more kicks in the teens or low 20s, unless WVU is attempting to pin a foe. The boots of 67 yards, then 17 yards, simply won't work, as Holgorsen has noted. Keep an eye on the junior and see how consistently he manages punts, both in distance and location. Look to where the coverage converges – that's where the punt is supposed to be.
      WVU BGSU
    Net Punt 29.8 yds 45.3 yds
    Punt Ret 18 yds 5.3 yds
    KO Ret 24 yds 17.4 yds

    Bowling Green's punter has been excellent this season, and any exchanges of a series of punts figures to favor the Falcons. On an exchange, check the net punt stats for WVU and BGSU and see how much yardage either team is giving the other. The field position issues, combined with LSU's fantastic punter and coverage, hindered the Mountaineers' opportunities to play with a short field at almost any point during the game. It might not be as pronounced, but if West Virginia is losing a first down every swap, a couple punts will begin to pin down the Mountaineers again.

  • Tackling, tackling, tackling. Holgorsen has said his team will make a couple player switches to attempt to get more ‘starters' onto special teams. This is something that should have been done earlier, as the best players should be on the field. There are concerns about injuries because of the collisions in special teams, but most schools use their best athletes. Perhaps West Virginia was trying to get away with using some lesser players, but LSU blew that apart with a return and completely dominating field position. The change could aid in the tackling that was poor on the kick return for touchdown that changed a close game with momentum into a 13-point contest with the Tigers carrying the edge. Like the defense, see if players are in their lanes and breaking down well. Carrying the aggression and lack of hesitation to the returner is key, and an area that needs improvement after last week.

  • Finally, see if the Mountaineers place another return man deep to ward of some attempts at punting short to allow the ball to roll deeper into WVU territory. That worked well for LSU, whose overage unit is likely the best West Virginia will see this season. Tavon Austin made some solid decisions in not forcing a play and trying to field a bouncing ball that could have been a disaster. But perhaps the dynamic wideout needs some help on the shorter punts, and another returner, aligned across the field and shallower, would very much eliminate the tactic from foes.

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