Before I go any further (Editor’s Note: but you haven’t gone anywhere yet!), I’d like to note DJ Gallo’s fantastic description of Rich Rodriguez’s offensive gameplan at the University of Michigan. A lot of people like to believe that the man is some sort of genius, but he isn’t now and never was. His success at West Virginia University stemmed entirely from having a backfield consisting of White, Slaton, and Schmitt, as well as an experienced and well-coached offensive line capable of springing those guys.
People turned that team’s success into Rodriguez’s, but the only important memory anybody ought to have about the guy surrounds his 13-9 loss to Pitt. Faced with a team that all but publicly declared that WVU wasn’t going to beat them up the middle, Rodriguez’s scheme collapsed. He was incapable of doing anything other than running his offense straight into the middle of the field where it got repeatedly clobbered. What’s to be learned?
That coaches win and lose games. People like to lay it at the feet of players (“If only we had better/different players!”) but it’s the coaches who send in the plays, and its the coaches who make the decisions. Why bring up these points, painful though they might be for all of us only a few years removed from what was one of the most devastating Mountaineer losses imaginable? Because against a team like UNLV, West Virginia ought to utterly dominate. We ought to score 50. We ought to not worry about winning but instead about how many different backups we can get on the field.
And yet, like any WVU game, I sit here writing this feeling not entirely confident. “We ought to win,” I think, “…but what if the coaches steer clear of what’s been working? What if they try to preserve our talent for later in the season by running the slow offense, the one in which we keep sending our talented fast backs straight into a collection of defensive players? What if? Oh god. No. No!”
That’s life as a Mountaineers fan. But here’s a sobering reality: the Mountaineers have scored 12 offensive touchdowns this season (four against Coastal Carolina, two against Marshall, four against Maryland, and two against LSU). Of those 12, five were scored via conventional football and by that, I mean the slow plodding offense that encourages every fan to look at the television aghast and wondering, “What in the hell is the point of all the speed if we’re going to do this horseshit!” Those five touchdowns came during the course of 11 of the 16 quarters of football we’ve played so far this year. In the other five quarters, we’ve scored seven touchdowns, all running our hurried up offense (two in the hectic 4th quarter against Marshall, four in the first three quarters against Maryland, one at the beginning of the 3rd quarter against LSU). Although our sample size is small and I’m one of the world’s most pathetic statisticians, it seems to me that one thing is clear: we score more points in less time running our fast offense. Our offense, by comparison, becomes impotent when doing anything else.
For fun, Scott and I are going to track Saturday’s game to see when we score and how. If we win by a lot and easily, I can guarantee you it will be because we ran our fast offense. Imagine if we ran our hurry up offense for the entire game. Imagine what we’d be capable of. If the game is closer than it ought to be, it will be because we abandoned what works for what doesn’t, an entirely inexplicable decision sure to frustrate.
Although I’m not one for predicting scores, I’ll got 48-10 if we’re playing fast and 21-10 if we’re playing slow. For God’s sake, play fast.