Remember when the Mountaineers beat Texas behind a balanced offensive attack? You might have to strain to remember back to the October 6 shoot-out in DKR Stadium, but only a mere 5 weeks ago, West Virginia had a dynamic rushing attack. Now? Well, the Mountaineers running game leaves much to be desired.
The Mountaineers rushing attack that seemingly came to life in the win over Texas has all but disappeared since.That night, behind the rushing of Andrew Buie, the Mountaineers raked up 192 yards and 2 touchdowns. After such an amazing performance from the little utilized Buie, Mountaineer followers thought that the team would have a solid rushing attack moving forward, especially when both Shawne Alston and Dustin Garrison came back healthy.
Since that fateful night in Austin, the Mountaineers running game has been derailed. So why has the running game gone off the rails? You can point to the increased strength of the defenses WVU has faced or the fact that WVU has fallen behind early in most of the 4-game skid. No matter the source of the blame, if West Virginia is going to snap their losing streak, they will need a consistent running game to provide balance to Geno Smith’s passing game.
Coach Holgorsen knows that this needs to be addressed immediately.
It is a huge issue, and we are going to work hard on it this week. We did a poor job of establishing the line of scrimmage. Look at all our third and shorts. We have no push. We had none. We were garbage on third and short, fourth and short, when we handed the ball off. That is combination of just not controlling the line of scrimmage up front and not having good enough running backs to be able to get the yards that we need. – Coach Dana Holgorsen
During their 4-game losing streak, the Mountaineers have struggled mightily to find the crease in the defensive front. In the four games since the win at Texas, the Mountaineers have only managed 130 yards against Texas Tech, 88 yards against Kansas State, 78 yards against TCU, and 78 yards against Oklahoma State. In each of the four games, West Virginia failed to keep drives alive with runs in critical down situations.
So what has been the root cause for the lacking running game during the 4-game losing streak? Coach Holgorsen is not shy about dishing out the blame.
You can blame it on what you want to. Shawne (Alston) is hurt. It is not what people want to hear, but he is hurt. That is why he is not playing. Dustin (Garrison) is still six months out from being where he was last year, which means we put it in the hands of Andrew Buie, who is averaging almost five yards a rush, but you give it to him 20 times a game, he is going to wear down. He is not that type of guy who can handle that many carries. – Coach Holgorsen
As Coach Holgorsen points out, WVU is lacking a lot of depth at running back right now. With Buie really being the only fully capable back on the roster, their is some concern about his ability to play an entire 60 minutes at a high level. Buie brushes that talk off however.
I feel good, I feel fine. That was a big thing for me during the offseason, getting my body to the point, where I could last for a whole season. I feel like I’m holding up pretty well right now. I do more stretching and get into the cold tub more often this year to keep taking care and treating my body. -Andrew Buie
As encouraging as Buie’s confidence in his ability is, the Mountaineers will need more than just Buie to revitalize their rushing attack. West Virginia needs complimentary backs to get the running game back on track and that will take time for Alston and Garrison to properly heal. In the meantime, WVU might need to look at having Tavon Austin carry the ball more.
I wish we could clone him and put three of him out there. We have obviously felt like he is a pretty good inside receiver, and it has always been the thing on what can we do to get the ball in his hands. And you want to get it into his hands as much as we can. – Coach Holgorsen