Running the football comes down to several things.
One of those, and not any less important, is attitude.
West Virginia has made its hay in that department over the past four years under head coach Dana Holgorsen transforming from a pass-happy air raid scheme to one that could pound the football. The past two seasons the Mountaineers found themselves inside the top 25 in rushing.
This year that number sits at No. 49 nationally. A small sample size, but in large part due to a 44-yard performance against Texas Tech that drew the ire from Holgorsen.
For good reason. It was the lowest out-put on the ground for the Mountaineers since the 2014 opener against Alabama where the program managed to only muster 28-yards rushing and a step back from the identity the team has created in recent years.
“We need to be able to run the ball and that’s a team mentality that we’ve worked hard over the last four years to get our team to understand that running the ball is important,” he said.
It’s not that the Mountaineers haven’t been able to run the ball this year in fact, quite the opposite as senior Justin Crawford is averaging over 100-yards per game and had eclipsed the century mark in every game this season prior to the meeting with the Red Raiders. The Mountaineers are currently rated as the No. 49 best offense nationally when it comes to chewing up yards on the ground as well.
So there are clearly positives. It’s just that Holgorsen wants to see the mentality that has gotten them to this point continue because things will only continue to get more difficult.
“I didn’t see it last week,” Holgorsen said.
“We’ve done some good things, I’m just talking about a mentality that needs to exist moving forward if we want to continue to win games,” he added.
West Virginia was able to run the ball in the fourth quarter against the Red Raiders however and that was especially true with the offense attempting to chew up clock late. That is the type of drive that Holgorsen wants to see out of his offense and the one he has cultivated.
The good news is that all of the issues are correctable and it isn’t even close to hit the panic button just yet, said offensive line coach Joe Wickline.
Every day is a time for teaching and he has been working with his unit on correct fits, combo blocks and all other aspects up front.
“We’ve ran the ball against good teams already,” he said.
The Mountaineers will travel to Baylor to take on a Bears team that has struggled to stop the run through six games, yielding 241-yards per contest ranking 119th nationally. Every team this season has rushed for over 200-yards against the Bears outside Liberty, who just made the transition to FBS.
So the opportunity to get back on track could be there for the taking. If the Mountaineers want it.
“We need to run the ball better … told the team that Sunday and we addressed it and we’re going to work hard on it,” Holgorsen said.