Cut 'Em Off At the Pass?

Bill Stewart has Dorrell Jalloh's confidence. The receiver said he truly believes the coach will better mix the run and pass – and he wonders why Rich Rodriguez didn't.

Jalloh said the No. 9 Mountaineers (10-2) have increasingly focused on using all weapons in their spread attack, and not simply staying with a running game that's proven, yet at times has stalled. In the past, WVU has continued to run the football after teams like Virginia Tech, South Florida and Pitt have stopped it. It lost those games partially because of a lack of offensive execution, as Rodriguez has said, and because of the coaching staff's insistence on running similar plays long after defenses have adjusted to contain it.

"I really believe this is going to happen," Jalloh said of Stewart's insistence that he will use every available option to beat No. 4 Oklahoma in the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl. "It has been happening a lot more in practice. We have thrown a lot. The way they talk about it, you kind of believe it. But I have been here a long time. I guess I will find out after the first quarter."

Jalloh, who has caught a team third-best 24 passes for 272 yards and one touchdown, noted that West Virginia has thrown more in the first quarter than in any other this season, even when being behind, and that the team seems to switch into more of a running mode late. That's fine when WVU is attempting to control or run out the clock, or is gashing teams. But when it isn't, like in the losses to South Florida and Pitt this season, the wideout wonders why other options are not explored.

"We're throwing a lot more in the first quarter, then fading away from it," Jalloh said. "I think if we continually do that in the game, there will be a lot better results. By doing that, (Oklahoma) will not know what to do. It backs everybody up, and we have two All-Americans in the backfield. Now what do you do? With Owen Schmitt, the dynamic we have, what do you do?

"I am wondering why we don't throw the ball more. I understand the coaching, that they want to take time off the clock, not turn the ball over and be conservative and not waste a down. I understand that. But once that part gets shut down, over and over and over again, why not try throwing it? Let's just try that once, maybe this series, for kicks and giggles. But they are the one who gets paid, so I have to do what the say and respect that."

The Sooners (11-2) would seem a perfect candidate for such mix-play actions. OU has lost two starters in the secondary and is weaker in the defensive backfield than up front. One of its two losses came to Texas Tech, the No. 1 passing squad in the nation. Oklahoma is allowing 232 passing yards per game against just 92 rushing. Much of that is because teams have often been behind and had to throw. But some of it is that OU is susceptible to throwing teams. Mix a lethal running game with vertical passing, and West Virginia could prove difficult to contain, let alone stop.

"You do not take a sledgehammer to Oklahoma," Stewart said. "We have to be like a surgeon and take a nick here and a nick there and slay the dragon that way. If you try to beat Oklahoma with a sledgehammer they will knock you out."

West Virginia is averaging nearly 39 points per game, an average that would likely be over 40 if it has performed anywhere close to par in the 13-9 loss to Pitt. The Mountaineers are racking up a mean of 450.5 yards of offense per game, 292.9 on the ground and 157.6 in the air. Darius Reynaud has led all receivers with 59 catches for 691 yards and 11 touchdowns. No other wideout has more than Jalloh's 24 catches; Steve Slaton has 25. After he and Schmitt, who snared 12 tosses, the number drops to 12 and nine, for Brandon Hogan and Tito Gonzales, respectively. None of WVU's top three receivers averages more than 11.7 yards per game (Reynaud). Oklahoma, behind redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Bradford – who leads the nation in pass efficiency – is throwing for 259.5 yards per game and running for 191.8, nearly a flip of WVU's style and approach.

"Hopefully we can execute a lot more than we have in the past in the passing game," Jalloh said. "It was frustrating. I am glad that (often running) is over with. The question that comes to mind is what if we did this or that in other games. You never know."

Mountaineers Daily Top Stories