A little late with this and for that I need to apologize. Several factors conspired to delay our usual postgame video post that I will not bore you with here. Video is below and we will dig into Baylor more in my Monday column and reset for the upcoming week that features football hosting Texas Tech and basketball opening the regular season on Friday against Akron.
This one is somewhat simple. West Virginia has not been able to consistently pass the ball and Baylor has been pretty good at stopping the pass. Receiver T.J. Simmons has been the best pass-catcher for the Mountaineers in recent weeks, including at Oklahoma when the redshirt junior grabbed two touchdowns. BU ranked fourth in the Big 12 in pass defense, allowing 221.1 yards per game. Senior linebacker Clay Johnston is among the league leaders in tackles and passes defended.
BAYLOR PASS OFFENSE VS WVU PASS DEFENSE
West Virginia has been thin on secondary depth all season, and it showed when injuries hit a few weeks back and true freshmen had to see significant playing time. Senior cornerback Keith Washington is expected back from a lower body injury this week for WVU, and he’ll be needed. Baylor junior quarterback Charlie Brewer has been very good this season, as expected. Brewer has completed 130 of 196 pass attempts for 1.866 yards with 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
WVU RUN OFFENSE VS BAYLOR RUN DEFENSE
The Mountaineers have a run offense? Well, kind of. WVU averages 88.14 rushing yards per game — ranking 125th out of 130 FBS teams. Sophomore Leddie Brown got the bulk of the carries for West Virginia at Oklahoma — 16 of them — but didn’t do much with the opportunity as he finished with 28 yards. Baylor is No. 3 in the Big 12 in run defense, allowing 137.4 yards per game. Defensive tackle James Lynch has lived in backfields and leads the league with 8.5 sacks.
BAYLOR RUN OFFENSE VS WVU RUN DEFENSE
WVU is near the bottom of the Big 12 in defending the run so far in 2019, allowing an average of 226 yards per game. Injuries have started to hit the West Virginia front seven, and the Mountaineers have not been getting as many “Wow!” plays from its defensive lineman Dante Stills and the rest of the defense. Baylor splits its carries and lets the quarterback run too. Senior JaMycal Hasty ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns last time out to lead BU at Oklahoma State.
If nothing else, West Virginia has not been afraid to get creative in this area. WVU did get a first down at Oklahoma on a fake punt pass by punter Josh Growden, but it also allowed OU to block a punt and recover it for a touchdown. You win some, you lose some. Baylor, meanwhile, has been solid kicking and punting the ball this season. The Bears also have a pretty good punt returner in junior Grayland Arnold, who has had few opportunities since a punt return touchdown against USTA early this season.
First-year West Virginia coach Neal Brown was going to have a tough go of it this season before injuries and attrition put a serious strain on the Mountaineers’ depth chart, but it is encouraging to see him try new things to get WVU or let a young player learn on the fly — sometimes on the road in conference games. Baylor coach Matt Rhule has worked one of the great turnaround jobs in college football history since arriving at BU, and a Thursday night spotlight should have the home crowd rocking.
WVU PASS OFFENSE VS OKLAHOMA PASS DEFENSE
The big news this week out of Morgantown came Thursday with the announcement that quarterback Austin Kendall will play for WVU this week against his former team, which is much improved on defense this season. Oklahoma ranks third in the Big 12 in pass defense, allowing 199.8 yards per game. Senior cornerback Parnell Motley leads the OU secondary and has been an advanced statistics darling in addition to having a team-high six passes broken up.
OKLAHOMA PASS OFFENSE VS WVU PASS DEFENSE
At 335.3 yards per game, Oklahoma ranks No. 5 in the country in passing offense, and it is easy to see why. Senior receiver CeeDee Lamb has been one of the best, if not the best, receivers in all of college football this season and was last seen embarrassing the Texas secondary in the Red River game last week. WVU is thin in the secondary and depending on the health of senior Keith Washington, will start at least one true freshman at cornerback.
WVU RUN OFFENSE VS OKLAHOMA RUN DEFENSE
West Virginia has shown little ability to move the ball consistently on the ground this season and will turn to sophomore running back Leddie Brown as the starter this week in an attempt to breathe some life into the run game. Oklahoma has been pretty good against the run this season, ranking fourth in the league in run defense at 140.5 yards allowed per game. Linebacker Kenneth Murray was the Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and has lived up to the hype.
OKLAHOMA RUN OFFENSE VS WVU RUN DEFENSE
OU leads the conference in rushing offense at 286.3 yards per game, with quarterback Jalen Hurts leading a group of Sooners with a talent for running with the football. Hurts, considered a serious Heisman Trophy contender by many, averages 8.5 yards per carry with eight rushing touchdowns. WVU allows 174.8 rushing yards per game — seventh-best in the Big 12 — with junior lineman Darius Stills among the league leaders with 8.5 tackles for a loss.
Fields goals are still an adventure, but West Virginia finally got an Australian punter on campus and in uniform this season in the form of LSU transfer Josh Growden, who has been pretty good. It has been weeks since an opponent attempted to return one of Growden’s punts. Texas-born OU punter Reeves Mundschau has been good too when called on, averaging 45.7 yards per punt and place kicking has been solid since the season-opener.
Neal Brown and the West Virginia coaching staff will have their hands full trying to figure out how to slow down a powerful OU offense and move the ball on a pretty good Sooner defense. Lincoln Riley has Oklahoma rolling again this season after replacing another Heisman winner at quarterback and somehow seeming better on offense for the second consecutive season. Oh, and it’s homecoming week in Norman.
We finally know where Kenny Robinson will land.
Robinson, an All-Big 12 safety in 2018 with West Virginia, was one of the Mountaineer players who left the team this offseason and opted to explore his professional options. On Wednesday, Robinson was selected in the XFL draft by the St. Louis Battle Hawks.
Robinson played in 25 games in two seasons at WVU, starting 20 times. He ranked second in the Big 12 in 2018 with four interceptions in 12 starts at safety for the Mountaineers.
So far, four former West Virginia players have been selected by XFL teams — Dravon Askew-Henry (New York Guardians), Marquise Lucas (Tampa Bay Vipers) and Terence Garvin (St. Louis).
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