After a good start to the season, West Virginia (6-4, 4-3) has seemingly begun to wear down as its season comes to a close. After starting the season with two losses to then top-five opponents, the Mountaineers got into a rhythm that led them to be the No. 20 team in the nation.
Unfortunately for head coach Dana Holgorsen and company, that run ended abruptly when TCU came into Morgantown and defeated the Mountaineers 31-30. Overall, it was a game that was marked with inconsistency and problems.
Since Horned Frogs’ junior kicker Jaden Oberkrom sealed his team’s win, the Mountaineers haven’t played the same. Last weekend, they seemed disheveled, allowing Texas to beat them even while outgaining the Longhorns in all facets.
The team has hit a wall in their progression. Whether it’s on the defensive or offensive side, the Mountaineers are struggling to stay afloat in a competitive conference.
On the offensive side, senior Clint Trickett’s production has taken a dip in the last three games, going from having seven straight games throwing over 300 yards to having three games of under 250 passing yards. As the Big 12’s leader in passing yards, Trickett is still at the top of his game, but the production isn’t necessarily equaling wins for the Mountaineers.
The issue causing the biggest problem for the Mountaineers on offense has been the disappearance of senior receiver Kevin White. White started the season as the first wide receiver to reach the 1,000 yard mark. After reaching that mark, White went on a slump where he gained only 55 yards in two games.
White has found himself as the focus of defenses and he has been double covered in situations such as third downs or as the time winds down. The Mountaineers have had to rely more on other options, such as senior Mario Alford. That has led to mixed results, culminating in the team’s two recent losses.
Holgorsen’s team has a problem that would make any coach furious and that is turnovers. The Mountaineers 22 turnovers are tied for the worst in the Big 12, including having a conference-leading 14 fumbles.
Not only does West Virginia have issues with turning the ball over, they have an issue forcing turnovers to make up for their mistakes. With only nine takeaways and a -13 turnover margin, the Mountaineers are on a trend that makes winning games very difficult.
They have also have been bad on defense, especially when they get pushed into their red zone. The Mountaineers are the conferences worst team in red-zone defense, allowing teams to have a 92 scoring percentage. The defense does an efficient job at keeping teams away from the red zone, but when they get there opposing teams score.
Where do the struggles come from mentally? It could be the extensive travel miles that they log, including the fact that it has been over a month since they’ve had back-to-back home games.
The issues may also stem from the lack of rest for Holgerson’s team. This game marks the first time since the Kansas game that the Mountaineers will play a game coming off of a bye week, with the first coming with very good results.