West Virginia gained 149 yards on 35 yards against the Cougars, for an average of 4.3 per carry. In no way was that a bad total, but for a team that has piled up more impressive numbers in recent games, it wasn't something that jumped off the stat page. Still, as can often be shown, the stats didn't tell the whole story.
"I didn't think we had a lot of rushing yards, but I thought we had some impactful rushing yards," running backs coach Ja'Juan Seider said. "I am very impressed with the way we are playing. I think our offense is built now to take advantage of hitting things at every spot."
Look no further than the third quarter for three such runs. By themselves, none of the the three stood out as a game breaker. However, all were crucial in getting the Mountaineers out of deep holes, and the second jump started a scoring drive that gave WVU a 16-point cushion.
The first came after BYU had taken the opening kickoff and marched down the field for a touchdown to cut WVU's lead to two. The Cougars then amped up the pressure by pinning WVU back on its own four-yard line on the ensuing kickoff. Hold that line, and the BYU would likely get the ball back around midfield with a ton of momentum.
Instead, Rushel Shell took a handoff an wiggled for ten yards, giving the Mountaineers some breathing room. He then ran for four and six yards on the next two carries, and although WVU elected to take a penalty against BYU on the latter, the damage had been done. Shell had helped the Mountaineers move out to the 23-yard line, where it had room to operate. Although the drive ended on downs at the BYU 39, WVU had flipped the field, and put the game back on a more even keel.
Two possessions later, the Mountaineers were buried again. BYU punter Jonny Linehan bounced a ball out of bounds at the one, and the Mountaineers were right back where they started. Again, though, the running game came through. This time it was Justin Crawford, who twisted and turned for 12 yards on second and ten to produce a first down at the 13. Thus sparked, West Virginia embarked on a 99-yard touchdown drive that produced the winning points. Crawford accounted 28 of the first 47 yards of the drive, helping to set up 52 yards of passes that concluded the scoring thrust.
"It's eleven guys doing their job," Seider said of the key to getting out of jail. "If you don't get it started it doesn't matter who is going to get it."
Another important element, again displayed on that second drive, was balance and the problems it presented to the defense. West Virginia was prepared to attack no matter how the Cougars defended, and made the right choice time and again to moved the ball almost the length of the field in 12 efficient plays. While there were a pair of incompletions and one rush for no gain, there were no negative plays and no penalties -- nothing to get WVU off schedule or out of rhythm.
WVU hopes to continue on that path against Kansas State, and knows what it will face in doing so. The Mountaineers will attack outside and try to get the Wildcat defense spread out, which goes against its ethos of playing from the outside and forcing everything back toward the middle of the defense. In doing so, it may well again be a case of quality over quantity for the WVU rushing attack.null