Jed's Midseason Grades: Offense
By Jed Drenning for WVUsports.com
October 14, 2011 05:33 PM
MSN radio sideline reporter Jed Drenning is providing periodic commentary on the Mountaineer football program for MSNsportsNET.com. You can also read more about Mountaineer football at Jed’s website http://thesignalcaller.com. You can also follow Jed on Twitter: @TheSignalCaller
|QB Geno Smith has the Mountaineers ranked 13th in the country heading into the bye week.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
How much has the game of college football changed in recent years? Don’t look now but a West Virginia team ranked 86th in the country in rushing offense is sneaking up on the Top 10.
Believe it. At 5-1, West Virginia spends the bye week parked at the No. 13 spot in the Associated Press poll. The ranking represents the highest for a WVU football team since week two of the 2008 season.
As the Mountaineers prepare for next week’s trip to the Carrier Dome to cross swords with Syracuse, here’s a glance at some midseason grades.OFFENSE
Dana Holgorsen believes in a three-dimensional attack that incorporates the best of the pass game, the run game and the play action game. Each of those three dimensions has had their moments this year, with the arm of Geno Smith stealing the headlines every week with the exception of Bowling Green. In the 55-10 win over the Falcons, freshman RB Dustin Garrison stole the show with a 291-yard individual effort that paced a team season-high 360 yards on the ground. The problem with the run game at large has been inconsistency, evidenced by the fact that the aforementioned 360 yards racked up against BGSU represents nearly half (49%) of the Mountaineers rushing total for the entire season to this point (738).
It’s become abundantly clear, however, that conventional benchmarks have no place in the judgment of Holgorsen’s offense. Traditional measuring sticks such as time of possession, rushing yardage and even third down conversion success often take a back seat to the sheer explosiveness of the Holgorsen passing attack. The passing game is that
good. It’s hard to argue with results and half a dozen games into the season WVU is ranked No. 12 nationally in scoring and No. 11 in yards per game. All indications are that the best has yet to come. Want a few numbers to back it up? Here you go:
• As a play caller, Dana Holgorsen currently has a preposterous streak of 69 consecutive games with at least one TD pass (dating back to September 2006).
• The Mountaineers rank 2nd in the country in plays of 30+ yards with 19 and 4th in plays of 20+ yards with 38.
• The Mountaineers amassed 533 total yards against an LSU defense that is widely regarded as one of the best in college football. In the Tigers other five games to date (including Oregon and 3 SEC opponents) they have yielded an average of just 198 yards per outing.
• West Virginia University has been playing football since 1891 and in that long history the program has produced a total of two 1,000-yard receiving seasons: 1,043 by David Saunders in 1996 and 1,006 by Chris Henry in 2003. The 2011 Mountaineer offense has a legitimate shot at producing three more such performances – in one year! At the midway point, here is where WVU’s top three pass catchers are pacing from a yardage standpoint (based on 13 games): Stedman Bailey – 1,374; Tavon Austin – 1,222; and Ivan McCartney – 975.
• Not only does WVU rank 15th in red zone scoring (94%), but the Mountaineers are among the nation’s most frequent visitors to the Promised Land inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. In fact, West Virginia has been inside the red zone 32 times, 2nd only to the 36 visits by Oklahoma State.
All told, the Mountaineer O-line has looked more cohesive each time out. The ground game is turning the corner, and the passing game is downright scary. With a quarterback who can already light you up like a Christmas tree, and one of college football’s most coveted offensive minds calling the shots, a little more stability from the running game might be the only thing this attack needs to become truly unstoppable.
OFFENSIVE GRADE: A-
Check back tomorrow for my midseason report card on the Mountaineer defense.