On Saturday, the Mountaineers followed up their big road win in Austin with another victory against their fourth opponent from the Lone Star State. WVU handed head coach of the TCU Horned Frogs, Gary Patterson, the most-lopsided defeat in his 18 year career. During that span, he amassed 11 double-digit winning seasons along with an overall winning percentage of 73%. Patterson’s teams have won five of their last eleven games against top five teams. Not this time. In the press conference afterwards, Coach Holgorsen remarked about how rare it is to defeat a TCU-type team in that type of fashion. Keeping all that in mind, this week’s edition of “From the Film Room” will explore how the Mountaineers were able to capitalize on their momentum, on Saturday afternoon in Morgantown.
While WVU’s offense didn’t meet the same impressive running game statistics they did in Austin last week, they were still able to find their rhythm. The first quarter was a struggle offensively, much of which was due to a sluggish running attack. Once the running game gained traction, the WVU offense absolutely took off. Below, we have two plays: both have similar running schemes, but feature completely different results.
TCU brings pressure on the play side, which disrupts the blocking of the play. Additionally, the offensive line struggles on the backside, allowing penetration into the backfield. This leaves Kennedy McKoy with nowhere else to go.
On this running play, Martell Pettaway has a cavernous hole to run through in the backside “A” gap. The play was successful because of effective blocking. Josh Sills, the left guard, clears out the defensive tackle lined up across from him. Trevon Wesco, takes care of the backside defensive end, while Yodny Cajuste works his way to the second level to block the backside linebacker. This series of blocks allows Pettaway to break through to the third level of the defense for a WVU first down.
Below, a third down completion is highlighted. It features multiple aspects of the game on Saturday. One specific part is a well designed and well executed play. The second, is an example of the type of struggles facing TCU’s defense this season.
Here, Will Grier waits patiently, moves to his second read, then throws to Sills for an easy first down. TCU is running a “Cover 2” zone coverage. The Horned Frogs are using a corner in the flat, the area between the sideline and the line of scrimmage, which then continues ten yards deep into the backfield. The middle of the field is being protected by three linebackers, each with their own area to defend. The deep part of the field is split evenly between the two safeties, giving the name, “Cover 2.” When attacking a zone defense, a receiver tries to find gaps between the zones that defenders occupy. Another way to exploit the defense is to have two routes that go through the same zone, the second passing through just as the first exits. The defender will trail the first receiver to the edge of their responsibilities, leaving them out of position when the second receiver enters the zone.
Replay the GIF and now watch the corner, the TCU player standing on the 40 emblem. He initially steps to Sills, then switches off to cover Kennedy McKoy. This perfectly explains the exchange of responsibilities by the defenders as receivers move through zones. Trevon Wesco, aligned at the end of the line of scrimmage, clears out the linebackers from the middle of the field on his fade route. With the linebackers out of position, this makes for an easy completion to Sills for a first down.
The two TCU linebackers should not have trailed Trevon Wesco as deeply as they did, especially the middle linebacker. With more discipline, one of them is in position to prevent the completion, or tackle Sills immediately. Gary Patterson’s defenses pride themselves on discipline. Specifically, this type of lapse is not typical of the TCU teams that we’ve come to know.
The Mountaineers head to Stillwater, OK on Saturday to face off against Oklahoma State, a tough team that has been hard to figure out this season. The Cowboys have beaten quality opponents such as Texas this year, only to stumble the next game against Baylor. Last week, they played their bitter rival, Oklahoma, down to the very last second before barely losing by the skin of their teeth. It will be hard to know which team will take the field this weekend, but the Old Gold and Blue will have to be ready for whatever the Cowboys throw their way.