With an average of just 32 rushing yards over two games, you can’t blame Neal Brown for calling his team’s run game “non-existent.”
Although football — especially Big 12 football — has transitioned from the ground to the air in recent decades, success in the pass game is still predicated on the foundation of the run. With such importance in that facet, their ineffective run game has forced West Virginia to find an answer.
“We’ve got to go back to the drawing board,” said senior guard Josh Sills after their loss to Missouri. “That’s two weeks in a row that we’ve had a [poor] run game. If we want to win games…we can’t play like that.”
Much of the run game’s problems boil down to two things: physicality and performance. The issues with the former were apparent in week one, which caused both Brown and offensive coordinator Matt Moore to lament about a lack of physicality. Unfortunately for Brown, those lamentations carried over into week two.
“Our running backs, our tight ends, our wide receivers are every bit the issue as the O-line in the run game,” Brown said. “We have not blocked well, we have not ran the ball hard, we have not been physical on the edge, so that’s all involved with the run game.”
Fixing that can be difficult from a coaching standpoint, as only the player can determine how physical he plays. What the coaches can do, Moore says, is to continue to demand that physicality every day on the practice field.
“The reason that [West Virginia] made plays last year is because those guys worked hard,” Moore said. “We’ve gotta understand the same thing. It’s not just gonna happen because it did last year.”
Physicality is key on the ground, but so is individual performance — and there are several players who have not lived up to par for their coaching staff so far. Heading into week three, Brown and Moore say that they are looking at their entire roster to see who may be able to step up against NC State, and they are willing to make changes to their lineup if needed.
“I do foresee there being some change-ups in the lineup,” Brown said. “The best way I can tell you is, if you continue to put stuff on video that’s not good enough, then the changes have to be made.”
Some of those lineup changes are already taking shape with the release of WVU’s latest depth chart on Wednesday, which shows redshirt freshman Briason Mays getting his first career start at center. Running back Leddie Brown will also make his 2019 debut after spending his first two games on the sideline with an injury.
According to his head coach, Leddie could help bring some of that physicality to the Mountaineer offense.
“I think [Leddie] is a tough guy,” Coach Brown said. “You know, we lack some toughness right now.”
West Virginia’s rushing attack has their work cut out for them this weekend against NC State. Having allowed just 49 yards on 48 attempts, the Wolf Pack’s defense is now the no. 4 rushing defense in the nation under Tony Gibson. The Mountaineers, on the other hand, sit near the bottom of the list in rushing offense: 129 out of 130.
“This is more about we’ve got to get us right, than who we’re going against,” Moore said. “That’s my big goal this week…we’ve got to make sure that we’re doing the detail things that we need to do and have our eyes where they’re supposed to be.”