You don’t cover a team for, what, 38 years and then not follow them.
Although now enjoying life at Wheelhouse Creative LLC, I still watch WVU’s athletic teams. I still get texts, emails, tweets, etc., from the Mountaineer faithful. And lately I’ve been hearing calls for head coach Neal Brown’s removal. I’ve heard the calls for a new quarterback. And, no, it’s not been pretty regarding the current football team.
But I always tried to take a measured approach when covering WVU. And nothing is a better measuring stick than statistics. Why guess when stats tell you the truth in black and white?
So, I went to the NCAA stats. They compare teams against their peers, all 130 FBS teams.
Let’s examine what I found good, bad and ugly.
First, the good.
I mean, the Mountaineers are No. 1 nationally in blocked kicks allowed (zero) and blocked punts allowed (also zero). Does that excite you?
Didn’t think so. OK, here’s a better try: West Virginia – primarily Winston Wright – has the Mountaineers No. 10 nationally in kickoff returns. Wright averages 31.6 yards. Throw in a Graeson Malashevich effort and the team is at 30.2.
Here’s another: WVU is No. 3 nationally in team tackles for loss, averaging 7.8 per game. Throw a bouquet to Taijh Alston for spearheading that effort with seven for 39 yards.
The other Top 20 efforts of the stats I examined were fourth down conversion percentage (No. 20 at 72.7 percent), red zone defense (No. 13 at 69.6 percent) and rush defense (No. 19, allowing 101.7 ground yards per game).
But that leaves a lot of team stats on the table.
Some it’s difficult to complain about. For instance, the red zone offense is tied at No. 35 (88.9 percent), the pass offense is ranked No. 40 (265.8 yards a game), while the completion percentage is also at No. 40 (64.4 percent). Even in time of possession and tackles for loss allowed, WVU is No. 36. Remember, that’s of 130 FBS teams.
Defensively, WVU is No. 22 in first-down defense and tied at No. 36 in sacks, averaging 2.67. In special teams, WVU is No. 34 in punt return defense at 4.38. In total defense, the Mountaineers are No. 46, allowing an average of 350.2 yards.
But then those rankings start to drift. From bad to ugly.
The scoring defense isn’t awful at No. 49 (allowing 22.5 points a game), but the offense is tied at No. 68 (28.3). (Keep in mind WVU defeated Long Island 66-0, which somewhat skews the numbers, although most FBS teams play cupcakes.)
The decline continues. In passes had intercepted, WVU is tied at No. 57 with five. In net punting, WVU is No. 61 at 40.26 per attempt.
If it’s third down? Mountaineer fans might want to look away. WVU is No. 75 nationally in third-down conversion percentage at 39 percent. On third-down defense, the team is No. 54 at 36.8 percent.
Then there’s the horror show.
Team passing efficiency: No. 70.
Kickoff return defense: No. 78.
First-down offense: No. 79.
Total offense: No. 85.
Fumble recoveries: No. 90.
Passing yards allowed: No. 97.
Sacks allowed: No. 97.
Fumbles lost: No. 103.
Team pass efficiency defense: No. 103.
Rushing offense: No. 114.
Pass interceptions: No. 118.
Punt returns: No. 119.
Turnover margin: No. 121.
You might notice I mostly stayed away from players’ names. The reason is, you can see this is a collective team letdown so far this season. The stats are stark. They are real. They are the truth.
This week, though,WVU is back at it. The Mountaineers are visiting TCU for a night game. It will be interesting to see if Brown has a turnaround in place – or whether the numbers will continue to crunch.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.