|Charles Sims runs for a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter of West Virginia's 30-27 overtime win at TCU on Saturday. Sims finished the game with a season-high 154 yards.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
FORT WORTH, Texas - In the process of snapping a three-game losing streak Saturday at TCU, West Virginia may have discovered something to hang its hat on for the remainder of the season – a running game.
Houston transfer Charles Sims
easily had his best performance as a Mountaineer, rushing for a season-high 154 yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns against a traditionally stingy Horned Frog defense – one a 31-yard jaunt in the second quarter and the other a 13-yard swing pass midway through the fourth quarter that was basically like another run.
Sims also had runs of 29, 17 and 11 yards to give West Virginia’s passing game a little more room to operate. Despite throwing two interceptions, quarterback Clint Trickett
was able to complete 25-of-41 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns – much better numbers than his passing stats the week prior in a 35-12 loss at Kansas State.
“We challenged the offensive line and they said run this instead of running that,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen of his team’s impressive three-play, 87-yard TD drive in the second quarter that was accomplished mostly on the legs of Sims. “It doesn’t matter how good of skill guys that you have or how good of running backs that you’ve got … if you can’t establish the line of scrimmage, whether it’s a run block or a pass block, you’re going to have problems. The bottom line is we came off the ball and we blocked well.”
Running the ball against Gary Patterson’s defense has always been a chore. Since 2000, TCU has been the best defense in the country against the run, allowing an average of just 92.6 yards per game on the ground.
Although TCU has not been quite that good this year, the Horned Frogs have still been good enough to limit four of their last six opponents to less than 100 yards rushing, including three to 46 yards or less heading into yesterday’s game. But where the Horned Frogs have really shined has been against the pass, both in forcing turnovers and getting to the passer. That meant West Virginia was going to have to run the ball or else it wasn’t going to move the football at all.
“They have a good pass defense and luckily we were able to run the ball pretty good,” Holgorsen pointed out. “We had 36 rushes for 148 yards (as a team). They don’t give up that many running yards very often.”
Prior to the 154-yard effort put forth by Sims, the best any opposing ball carrier could do against TCU’s defense was Bryan Bennett’s 132-yard performance in week two for Southeastern Louisiana.
Sims’s success running the ball allowed West Virginia to take the lead early in the fourth quarter when Trickett hit Cody Clay
for an 11-yard touchdown on a bootleg pass.
“You’ve got to set up the run and we did and it was a good play call,” Holgorsen admitted. “I was beginning to wonder what touchdowns looked like and we got two on consecutive drives.”
So what Sims did Saturday against TCU can’t be discounted, or the fact that when West Virginia has won football games this year it is averaging 40.2 rushing attempts per game, and when it loses football games it is running the ball about 10 fewer times.
And of course, some of that is dictated by the nature of the game.
West Virginia’s defense couldn’t get off the field against Baylor, thus, Holgorsen was forced to air the ball out to try and keep up. Texas Tech was a similar situation, but the Mountaineers ran the ball 36 times in the big Oklahoma State victory earlier this season, and they also ran the ball effectively in a competitive nine-point loss at Oklahoma in week two.
For the season, Sims shows 754 yards on just 144 attempts for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. More importantly, he is on pace to become the first Mountaineer ball carrier since Noel Devine in 2009 to top 1,000 yards for a season.
Sims is also a big-time threat either catching the ball out of the backfield or lining up in the slot. He is currently second on the team with 36 receptions for 300 yards to already give him more than 1,000 all-purpose yards for the year with three regular season games remaining against Texas, Kansas and Iowa State.
“He can handle about anything and obviously we’re glad he’s here,” said Holgorsen. “He had two touchdowns and about had a third at the end of the game (his 12-yard TD run in overtime was called back on a holding call). Charles is a special player. I’ve been saying it since the day he arrived here that he’s a special player in the run game, and he’s a special player in the pass game.”
For a Mountaineer offense that once was known for producing 1,000-yard rushers on a yearly basis, having Charles Sims
in the backfield has been a welcomed sight for WVU fans this season.
Perhaps he can become a guy that the offense can lean on even a little bit more heading down the stretch.