Kevin Kinder \

Tough BYU Challenge Yields Mixed Results for WVU Offensive Line

West Virginia's offensive line faced a tough challenge, from both a schematic and intensity standpoint, in Saturday's 35-32 win over BYU. The Mountaineer blockers were effective overall, but missed some chances that could have ended matters earlier.

BYU came into the game with a reputation for playing tough, physical football, and offensive guard Kyle Bosch gave them credit for upholding that.

“They just were relentless on their front four and their linebackers were high motor guys,” Bosch said afterward. “They made it difficult for us all day. They had a lot of heart.”

In addition to the effort side, the Cougars also crashed hard with outside linebackers, and occasionally safeties, to try to disrupt the West Virginia rushing game. Quarterback Skyler Howard called it “junking up the box” and at times it was effective. While WVU did average 4.3 yards per carry, BYU limited the Mountaineers to 149 rushing yards overall, and allowed just two rushes of 10 yards or more.

To WVU's credit, it allowed just four tackles for loss, for a total of five yards, and only yielded one sack (a questionable statistical call) for a one-yard loss. BYU had totaled at least six tackles for loss in 15 of its last 16 games, so West Virginia's men up front definitely enjoyed some success. It was a back and forth battle matching two very good units.

“They were slanting a lot and they made it difficult for us all day,” said Bosch, who was not shy about giving credit where it was deserved.

BYU's attack mode might seem to make it almost impossible to run the ball consistently or effectively. The Cougars filled gaps and kept runners from cutting back or bouncing wide. However, Bosch said that West Virginia must be able to run the ball no matter how much opponents load up, and must keep focus even when the game is going the Mountaineers' way. West Virginia had several chances to lock up the contest after taking a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter, but couldn't put it away.

“It just falls on us to create those seams for the running backs. It falls on us as a unit to do that,” the big guard observed. “We are kind of a younger team, and we have to get that lackadaisical attitude off. We can't let it where, we are up 17 or 16 points, and then let it all fall to pieces. We have to be one of those teams that is constantly on the gas pedal, and we kind of let up. “It's always one of those things as an offensive lineman that when you get that opportunity to seal up the game, and you kind of let it fall apart, [that's disappointing]. If we don't come off the ball, no one is going to get any yards, and if we can’t protect, Skyler isn't going to get the ball off.”

Still, the Mountaineers were successful. The offense recorded 481 yards (6.4 per play), and had 26 first downs. Just a couple more on those fourth quarter possessions, and WVU wouldn't have had to sweat out BYU's furious rally. This is something to build upon, but it will be critical in the coming Big 12 season, where 35 points per game might not be enough to win some expected shootouts.

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