The Mountaineers had multiple extra points and a 19-yard field goal pressured off the edge by Texas, and it appeared in live action as though the Longhorns came dangerously close to blocking a few. With teams unable to penetrate the middle of the Mountaineers’ line, opposing field goal block units have switched up their approach to overload Cody Clay, and try to attack his inside gap. That has forced Clay to first handle the numbers disadvantage on the inside, where the kick is most vulnerable.
In turn, that has created a domino-like effect where Cody and the other Mountaineer wings (players on the very edges of the line) aren’t as focused on protecting the edges, but rather their interior gap assignment. Texas noted this, and placed a pair of athletes on the outside to pressure the edge in an attempt to get a block around the end.
“You always have to take care of your inside gap first, and then we teach to flipper back out late and get a hand on that breast plate to slow (the edge rush) up,” special teams coach Mark Scott said. “Teams have been trying to scheme us up by overloading Cody so he can’t get out there. But depending on the width of that guy, as long as our operation time is up to speed, he shouldn’t have time to get there.”
In live action, Texas looked close to getting to a pair of placekicks. Scott noticed it, too, and called down to the field to speak with fellow assistant Joe DeForest.
“I am up there in the press box talking to coach DeForest and saying hey, we gotta get more protection,” Scott said. “It’s a lot scarier from my vantage point. I was sweating up in the press box and wondering about that. Then you get on the film and you see the ball was past (the edge rusher) before he even got close. It wasn’t nearly as much of a concern on film. We are blessed to have a really good short sapper in John DePalma, and our operation time has taken care of that.
“On Sunday after grading everything, coach Holgorsen asked the same thing,” Scott said of exactly how close Texas was to blocking a kick. “We looked at it, and the guy is a yard away as the ball is going through. If it was tighter, then we would look to potentially make some adjustments. And again, Texas had some good speed off the edge, tremendous speed.”
Issue number two was the latest of early starts for Josh Lambert. In the lone attempt against Kansas, a rushed 41-yard field goal try as the play clock wound down, the timing of the entire unit was off, and that caused Lambert to start his motion early. He then had to hesitate in waiting for the snap and hold, and start his approach again. At least partially because of the poor timing, the kick came off low and was blocked by the Jayhawks.
Lambert has made such tries in the past, but the question holds as to why the early motion continues to occur. Against Kansas, it was multiple variables.
“Our holder, Nick (O’Toole), has his left hand down on the ground with his right hand up,” Scott said. “As soon as that hand on the ground comes up, that’s when Josh starts his approach. Now, we got set out there (against Kansas) with two seconds on the play clock and Nick shortened his cadence up, which threw Josh off a bit. The timing of the whole team was off. Hindsight, we should have burned a timeout and reset. Nick was trying to get it off, and that threw Josh off. Everything was off.
“But Josh has had that issue. He did it a couple times last year. It’s focusing on what you’re supposed to be focusing on and getting your eyes in the right place. It’s going back and getting him to focus what he needs to focus on.”
Which means not looking at the play clock, but instead at O-Toole’s hand and focusing only on that. Lambert assumed that the ball would be snapped a split second earlier than it was because of the play clock awareness. It shows excellent overall understanding of what needs to occur for Lambert, but it also means he is factoring in more than simply what his job is, which in this case is to see the hand, begin the motion and follow through.
“It was a little low,” Scott said, “but it really wasn’t that bad. The kid from Kansas made an unbelievable play. He leaped over Darren Arndt and as he was coming down his hand tipped the ball. Obviously with Josh hesitating and then starting back up, we didn’t get as much lift as we would like. But even with our timing off, you gotta tip your hat to the kid from Kanas because that was an unbelievable play.”
West Virginia thought about allowing Lambert and the field goal unit to go through the process again late in the KU game, but decided it was an experienced enough group that the issue didn’t need addressed any more than it has been in practice.
“He’s a veteran,” Scott said of Lambert. “He has been through really good times and some tougher times. He is mature enough to be able to take that for what it is and move on. I think we also wanted to get other guys more reps on offense, and get them as many snaps as we could with perhaps more first downs, so we went for it on fourth down instead.”