WVU’s Offense Explodes Against Cyclones
This week, we wondered whether the West Virginia Mountaineers could carry their momentum back home against Iowa State. They did that, and more, in earning their second victory of the season against a ranked team. Indeed, WVU’s offense explodes against Cyclones, earning them a 38-31 victory to even their record at four wins and losses on the season.
Offensive Line Wins Key Battle
Iowa State’s defensive line represents the strength of its defense this season. That said, the Mountaineers’ offensive line really seemed to turn a corner last weekend against TCU. Would the momentum carry over to this week, however, became one of the biggest questions this week.
The line answered with a resounding yes. The Cyclones successfully dialed up pressure at key times in the game, but, by and large, this young Mountaineer offensive line took yet another step forward in Morgantown. In fact, we are anxious to see the Pro Football Focus grades, as we only saw a few plays the entire game where we would have graded any of the linemen negatively.
We wrote during the Mountaineers’ bye week how rare it was for an offensive line to improve significantly mid-season. In general, without personnel changes or players returning from injury, that remains true. For every rule, however, stands an exception. WVU’s line, at least in the last two games, represents the latter.
Jarret Doege Plays The Game Of His Career
Starting quarterback Jarret Doege takes a lot of punishment from the Mountaineer fanbase and media. We count ourselves among those who have openly questioned whether he had what it takes to win big games. Football, of course, remains a game of momentum, and trends can change in an instant. For these last two games, however, we finally start to see what Head Coach Neal Brown was talking about when he praised Doege’s off-season improvement.
Earlier this season, we criticized Doege for holding the ball too long and for getting shaken too easily by adversity. He did not play a perfect game against Iowa State. The Cyclones rattled him a few times. Most notably, after the controversial offensive pass interference call, Doege threw a pick-six to start the second half. Same old Doege, right? Wrong. Doege moved on as quickly as the next drive, throwing two beautiful passes in a row to knot the game at 24.
Doege finished with a career-high 370 passing yards. His previous high was 347 yards against Texas Tech last season. He also tossed three touchdowns to two interceptions, only one of which was really his fault. Through the game, Doege looked as composed as he ever has. He moved the pocket well, and he released the ball quickly against pressure. Again, it was not a perfect game, but it certainly represents the high watermark of his career.
Speaking Of High Watermarks…
We also wrote several weeks ago that West Virginia simply had to find ways to score points. Averaging just more than three touchdowns a game against Power Five competition simply would not win many games. In fact, during the Neal Brown Era, West Virginia has eclipsed 35 points against Power Five competition just three times. They managed 38 against Kansas last season, 37 against Kansas State last season, and 44 against NC State in 2019.
Their 38 point against the Cyclones represents the highest point total against a ranked team in the last three seasons. They did so falling just shy of 500 yards of offense, too. For an offense that seemed downright pedestrian just a few short weeks ago, they managed a complete turnaround during the bye week. Let’s see if they can keep it up against Oklahoma State next week.
Ending A Losing Streak
There were several key players who contributed as WVU’s offense explodes against the Cyclones. Leddie Brown rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns. That makes his third 100-yard game of the season and tenth of his career. It was also his fourth multi-score game of the season.
Bryce Ford-Wheaton, one of predicted offensive surprises for the season, finished with six receptions for 106 yards and a pair of scores. While he dropped a couple (one leading to the Cyclones’ first interception of the game), three catches, in particular, demonstrated just how athletic Ford-Wheaton can be.
Winston Wright also finished with 100 receiving yards and a score, including a few more critical receptions to sustain scoring drives. Speaking of sustaining drives, Isaiah Esdale added six receptions for 61 yards, with several catches in traffic that moved the chains.
Matt Campbell‘s Cyclones, of course, won three straight against the Mountaineers. The last two games represented particularly lop-sided losses. This weekend, WVU ended that streak in style. Next weekend, the Mountaineers will look to end a longer losing streak when Oklahoma State comes to town.