West Virginia’s offense has some accolades and some issues. It ranks No. 7 in yards per game. Only five other teams average 500 yards of offense with 300 passing and 200 rushing. (Ohio State deserves a mention for averaging 200 passing and 300 rushing.) But in 2016, the year Dana Holgorsen wanted to see the Mountaineers jump from last season’s 34 points per game to 42, the scoring offense has not matched that success.
Of the top 25 teams in total offense, only East Carolina is lower than WVU in points per game. The Mountaineers average 32.8 points per game, which ranks No. 46. ECU, No. 13 in yards per game, averages 28 points per game, which ranks No. 74.
It’s weird, but if you believe the offense has been better lately — You ready for this? Twenty points per half in five of the past six halves! — then you believe the points will follow along sooner rather than later. Just look at red zone efficiency as proof. Two touchdowns in the first eight trips. Six touchdowns in eight trips last week … and that was after six touchdowns in 10 trips in the two games before that. The overall numbers aren’t terrific, but they’re better.
A good sign for the Mountaineers? Third downs. They convert quite often but, more importantly, they’re not seeing too many per game, and that’s a big improvement upon the past. Stay on the field and you can score more.
They’re No. 25 in third-down conversion percentage (47.14), but they also avoid third downs, which has been their problem in the past. They see 13.8 third downs per game. That’s good enough for an above-average No. 36 nationally, but they’ve never seen fewer per game in Holgorsen’s first five seasons.
In fact, they were among the worst the prior three years, ranking Nos. 111, 127 and 108 and averaging 17.1, 17.7 and 16 per game. The Mountaineers were running a lot of plays, but they were running into a lot of obstacles, too.
Third downs are 50-50 plays. You get it or you don’t. The possession goes on toward the end zone or it ends shy of the goal because of a field goal or a punt.
WVU prevents a lot of those dilemmas with 36 first downs on 182 first-down snaps and 53 first downs on 134 second-down snaps.
“I would prefer never to be in third down,” Holgorsen said, “it’s just not very realistic.”
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