West Virginia coach Neal Brown’s offense needs a late energy boost.
The Mountaineers started strong against three Power Five opponents this season only to fall flat, managing a field goal after halftime in each game.
There's plenty of things to sort out and Brown hopes to have them done by the time West Virginia (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) hosts Texas Tech (3-1, 0-1) on Saturday. The opportunities for scoring certainly could be there for the Mountaineers: Texas Tech lost at Texas 70-35 last week.
“We have to get better. That’s the truth of it,” Brown said. “We’ve got to score more in the second half.”
A last-second loss at No. 6 Oklahoma on Saturday dropped West Virginia to 0-9 against the Sooners in Big 12 play. It prompted a wave of second guessing on social media, reassurances from both current and past players, and even a lecture about fan behavior from West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins.
Huggins wrote on Twitter after the 16-13 setback Saturday night that “win or lose we should have our guys back instead of crush them. The beautiful thing about bleeding gold and blue is knowing that people have always counted us out and looked down on us and we’ve always loved the opportunity to prove different.
The football team “is in good hands. Stop!”
West Virginia's offense did just that after halftime, managing 62 yards on three possessions with only a field goal against the Sooners.
It happened, too, against Virginia Tech two weeks ago. The Mountaineers led 27-7 early in the third quarter but needed a defensive stand inside their own 5-yard-line in the final minute to hold off the Hokies.
In the season opener, West Virginia led Maryland 21-20 at halftime. A third-quarter fumble and a fourth-quarter interception ended promising drives in Terrapins territory and the Mountaineers lost 30-24.
West Virginia had only three second-half possessions against Oklahoma. The Mountaineers had a second-and-goal from the Oklahoma 1 in the third quarter but had to settle for a field goal after a false-start penalty.
West Virginia was driving toward a late go-ahead score when center Zach Frazier was called for an illegal snap and, on the next play, Frazier snapped the ball past quarterback Jarret Doege, resulting in a 21-yard loss. That took the Mountaineers out of field goal range and forced a punt that led to Oklahoma's game-winning field goal as time ran out.
Brown was quick to defend Frazier, who moved to center after starting nine games at left guard last year.
“I’ll take him every single time in that situation, in that kind of moment,” Brown said. “He’ll learn from it and move on.”
Doege has not thrown a touchdown pass in six quarters and has been intercepted twice in that stretch. Brown would like to get running back Leddie Brown involved in the passing game more yet reduce the number of overall plays that he’s on the field, which means his backups need to be better prepared.
The coach said it’s possible moving forward that West Virginia will carry a bigger play selection, saving some for the second half.
“I thought we competed, but we’ve got to figure out ways to get more explosive plays," Brown said. "We were able to hold onto the ball quite a bit but we’ve got to be able to score touchdowns to win those games.
"You can’t make mistakes that hurt you and at the end of the day, that’s what we did.”