MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — When an offense puts up just 10 points in a game in the Big 12, something is wrong.
Neal Brown was understandably disappointed with his team’s performance in its loss to Texas Tech on Thursday, which was hindered by the Mountaineers’ worst offensive performance of the season. WVU put up its lowest yardage total of 2022 in that defeat, rushing for fewer than 100 yards for the second time while the air attack gained a year-low 209 yards.
“We struggled to run the ball consistently and we didn’t win vs. man coverage,” Brown said. “If you don’t do either of those, you’re going to struggle regardless of who you are playing.”
West Virginia especially struggled in the latter area. The Mountaineers have seen a lot of man-to-man coverage and succeeded this year: three of Bryce Ford-Wheaton’s four touchdown receptions beat man coverage in one form or another, while according to Pro Football Focus, Kaden Prather has caught two-thirds of his targets against man.
That shifted on Saturday as Texas Tech’s secondary seemed to smother WVU’s receiving corps.
“The one thing about those interceptions is they were all three one-on-ones,” Brown said. “When you throw into one-on-one, you’ve got to have the expectation that your guy’s going to come down with it or it’s going to be incomplete, and in those three instances, they were picks….we’ve got to be able to either break those up or make the plays.”
WVU tried to combat the tight man coverage by running some quick screens, a concept that has helped the squad break some big runs in the past. While Brown said they were close to getting an explosive gain, he admitted they were unsuccessful.
The Mountaineers are only going to see more man-to-man going forward. Man is a sign of a confident and talented defense, and three of its last five remaining games are against the top teams in the Big 12.
In fact, No. 7 TCU and No. 9 Oklahoma State happen both happen to run the most man-to-man defense in the league.
“In the secondary, [TCU has] a lot of pieces,” Brown said. “They do a good job of mixing up looks.”