The Longest Yard

A problem that has plagued this year's edition of the Mountaineers all season long raised its ugly head again in this past Saturday's crucial Big East conference tilt with the visiting Cincinnati Bearcats.

Following the overtime defeat, much of the blame turned to the offense's inability to once again convert on short yardage plays. On multiple occasions the Mountaineer's continued to prove the old saying that football is truly a game of inches, as their mixture of plays were stopped in the backfield, often resulting in drive killing punts or turnovers on downs.

Credit Cincinnati's defense, which used multiple schemes, stunts, and sets to hold the Mountaineers to a 20 percent third down conversion rate. The Bearcats players also seemed to set up shop in the Mountaineer backfield, getting great push off the ball and often disrupting plays before the offense could even execute them.

But the effort of the opposing team aside, what other factors come into play with the offensive line's shortcomings?

Senior offensive tackle Selvish Capers believes it's as simple as desire and execution.

"I wouldn't say that they were disrupting us, we just didn't come out and match the intensity like we should have," Capers said. "Usually we're a second half team, but we just fell short in the first half again and eventually it was going to catch up to us."

Another question from the circle of Mountaineer faithful regards that the staple of the offensive line's technique -- the zone blocking scheme. The thinking goes that a reliance on zone blocking is making it difficult to be a power blocking team in situations where the need is simply to get low and get a yard or two. Caper insists that this just isn't the case.

"The zone works, if you block it well. Pretty much every time we were in the zone we had a mistake," Capers said. "It's not the zone, its just executing it properly. I think if we're executing it properly, the zone is unstoppable."

The offensive line has also had to adjust to three different coaches the past three seasons, a task that Capers admits can take some adjusting.

"It's been an adjustment, because every coach has their own method. You learn something new from each coach," Capers admitted. "One coach might like one thing, and another coach might like another. But it's a good thing if someone can adjust to the change."

Adjusting to the change is exactly what Capers has been doing under the tutelage of first year offensive line coach Dave Johnson. Acting as a sponge, Capers has been soaking up all the teachings and techniques that Johnson has provided him with during the course of his tenure as the line's head man.

"Of course, I learn something new everyday; from my set to my steps to where my hands are placed, just different things," Capers said. "You can't ever learn too much."

Luckily for Capers and the rest of the offensive line, they have a current bye week to rest up and work on their short yardage blocking schemes for their upcoming opponent the Louisville Cardinals.

"I plan on just working hard and watching a bunch of film. Also doing my reps and focusing on doing everything perfect in practice. I expect Louisville to come hard, they are known for smacking people in the mouth," Capers said. "But if we get a good start and play a whole game, we'll be fine."


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