Match-ups: WVU - Bowling Green

The passing game is in the spotlight in this week's look at some of the key confrontations in the Bowling Green - West Virginia game. 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
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


WVU pass rush vs. Bowling Green passing offense

There has been some hysteria over the lack of sacks (one) generated by the Mountaineer pass rush so far this year, but thinking fans understand that a variety of factors have contributed to that. Defensive inexperience, a lack of speedy blitzers, departed players and banged up current performers have all contributed, but the biggest is the fact that most foes have thrown off three and one step drops for much of the season. Short drops and even quicker releases mean no sacks, plain and simple. Will that be the Falcons' plan this week?

A look at the stats and video suggest that Bowling Green has actually made its mark by throwing the ball downfield. Seven receivers have at least one catch of 23 yard or more , and nine receivers average more than ten yards per catch. Of course, some of those are shorter passes that are turned into longer gains, but the Falcons also have 16 pass plays of 20 yards or more this year. Will the Falcon offensive line give quarterback Matt Schilz time to throw those deeper routes, or can West Virginia get to him and prevent those plays from developing? Or will Bowling Green go to shorter routes and quicker release times? They average 13.4 yards per catch this year, and holding them under that mark will be a primary goal for the WVU defense.

Much of the sack focus has been on Bruce Irvin, who does own West Virginia's one sack this year. He's playing more, and thus isn't quite as fresh when passing situations arise. However, he has put pressure on the quarterback on several occasions, and in no way should all of the blame for a lack of sacks be leveled at him. Generating pressure is a team chore, and West Virginia needs to find more from other areas. It needs to get more production from Julian Miller, whose ankle injury has certainly caused him to be at less than 100% effectiveness all season. It needs to get more comfortable with its third down package, which would allow second level defenders to blitz a bit more often. And it needs more people to make great individual plays – to beat one-on-one blocks or bull through an opponent to collapse the pocket. Those items are a goal every week, and the Mountaineers will get the chance to gauge how much the week's worth of practice benefited it when game time rolls around.

WVU wide receivers vs. Bowling Green defensive backs

It's easy to assume that West Virginia will be able to throw for big yardage against Bowling Green after torching LSU's defense a week ago. That's not an automatic, however, even though the Falcons have just one DB in its op eight that stands taller than five feet, ten inches.

Ivan McCartney
West Virginia's offense is predicated on creating mismatches, but those are normally done in terms of space and coverage, not size. That could be a different matter this week, as WVU can trot out some tall receivers (Ivan McCartney and Tyler Urban) as well as one with great athletic skills (Ryan Nehlen). West Virginia won't change its basic scheme or philosophy, but it may well try to get those taller, higher-leaping players isolated against some of the Falcons' smallish defenders.

It will be interesting to see how BG responds to this challenge. The Ohioans have improved across the board in defense this year, and are allowing just under 200 yards per game through the air. They have generated 11 sacks through four games, and are expected to try to upset the rhythm and timing of West Virginia's offense with a variety of blitzes. Six of their sacks have come from linebackers and defensive backs, so it won't be a surprise to see a number of different rush schemes on Saturday.

Two players to watch in this play phase are linebacker Dwayne Woods and rover Larry "Boo Boo" Gates. The Falcons leading tackler with 29, Woods gets free rein in rushing matters. He has two sacks and six tackles for loss so far this year. Gates is right behind, with 22 tackles, including two behind the line. WVU will have to account for their rushes in the passing game, but if it can pick them up in blitz situations, it could exploit the rest of the defense for some big gains.


While Bowling Green's passing game is getting a lot of well-deserved attention, there needs to be some focus on the Falcon rushing game as well. Due largely to the efforts of freshman Anthon Samuel, the Falcons are averaging 102 more yards per game on the ground in 2011 than they did in 2010. Samuel owns 428 of BG's 659 rushing yards this year, and is averaging 7.0 yards per carry.

West Virginia, which is still working to find consistency on defense, will have a good challenge in the BG front line. The Falcons aren't undersized by any means, with no starter standing shorter than six feet, three inches, and an average weight of just a hair under 300 pounds, so its not as if WVU can expect to line up and overwhelm its opponent physically. Keep an eye on West Virginia's defensive line at the snap. Are they eating up blockers, or are they getting handled one-on-one? Are they able to get penetration at times, or are Falcon blockers keeping them on their own side of the line of scrimmage? Those are the initial keys in the run game, and the Mountaineers need to begin building more success in stopping it this week.

* * *

Bowling Green has given up just 30 yards per game fewer than West Virginia, but it has allowed just 19.8 points per game, while the Mountaineers have yielded 25.8. The level of competition has something to do with that, but there's more to that touchdown per game difference. The Falcons have been able to come up with big plays to stunt drives , and have been better on third downs.

Looking at the numbers, BG has come up with five fumble recoveries against none for WVU. That's five drives stopped cold. It has the aforementioned 11 sacks, to go along with 18 pass breakups and four interceptions. Finally, it has been excellent on third down, allowing a conversion percentage of just 22.8%, good for second in the nation. West Virginia hasn't been bad in that regard, standing 39th with a rate of 34.5%, but the accumulation of all those stats explains the difference in scoring defense. We'll see this week just how much the level of competition has played into those numbers, as the Falcons haven't faced anyone of the quality of LSU this year.

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