MORGANTOWN — The transition into the Huge 12 has been a troublesome one for the 4 convention newcomers this season. Houston, BYU, Cincinnati and UCF are a mixed 1-8 in convention video games up to now this yr.
West Virginia, which is able to play all 4 newcomers this season, faces its first new conference-mate tonight with a recreation at Houston’s TDECU Stadium (7 p.m./FS1). The Mountaineers (4-1, 2-0 Huge 12) will look to increase their four-game successful streak towards a Cougar crew (2-3, 0-2) that has underperformed via 5 video games.
“To me, it’s nearly us persevering with to get higher,” WVU head coach Neal Brown stated. “I do know that’s coach-speak or no matter, however we’re on this successful streak and we actually haven’t performed a three-phase recreation.”
Regardless of successful 4 video games in a row, WVU has been out-gained on offense by all 4 of its FBS opponents this season. West Virginia is within the backside third of the league in each scoring (26.4) and yardage (347.4), however Brown believes the Mountaineers are poised to interrupt out popping out of their off week.
“We’re on the healthiest that we’ve been from a talent perspective,” he stated. “Our quarterbacks are persevering with to mature so we’re on the verge of taking part in some good offensive soccer.”
That is additionally the Mountaineers’ best matchup, on paper, up to now in Huge 12 play. The Cougars, led by former WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen, have the second-worst scoring protection (29.8) and permit probably the most yards (405.8) per recreation within the convention. Houston is third-worst in each dashing (163.6) and passing (242.2) protection.
“(West Virginia is) actually, actually good at blocking and tackling,” Holgorsen stated. “You flip the video on and you may see it. They don’t miss a complete lot of tackles and offensively, it’s all in regards to the run recreation and blocking folks up entrance. So It’s an enormous problem for us for the place we’re at.”
Houston has allowed over 200 dashing yards thrice this season, together with in each of its Huge 12 video games up to now. The Cougars gave up 208 dashing yards to UTSA, 250 to TCU and 239 to Texas Tech.
In opposition to a WVU crew that runs the ball twice as a lot because it passes (225 runs to 113 passes), Holgorsen is aware of the Cougars must be higher.
“We’ve acquired to cease the run,” Holgorsen stated. “We’ve been fairly good about that during the last 4 years, however we’ve acquired our work reduce out for us.”
Offensively, WVU followers is not going to be shocked at the truth that the Cougars have the third-best passing assault within the Huge 12 below Holgorsen. Houston is averaging 281.2 yards per recreation with quarterback Donovan Smith, who has additionally run for 163 yards and has scored 12 whole touchdowns.
“I might say (Holgorsen’s offense) is kind of a bit completely different than what they’d with (former WVU quarterback) Will (Grier) simply because Donovan Smith is extra of a runner,” Brown stated. “He can do each, in order that they’re calling some QB run performs and performing some various things within the learn (choice) recreation. A variety of the move ideas are the identical, although.”
True freshman Parker Jenkins has taken over as Houston’s beginning working again and leads the crew with 218 dashing yards and three touchdowns. Former WVU receiver Sam Brown leads the Cougars with 518 receiving yards, the very best mark within the Huge 12.
Brown, a sophomore, spent two seasons at WVU in 2020 and 2021. He performed in 4 whole video games and caught 10 passes for 108 yards with the Mountaineers.
“Anytime you lose a participant, particularly a proficient participant, you look again and assume, ‘What might I’ve executed completely different,’” Neal Brown stated. “At the moment, it was in all probability the very best determination for him and perhaps the very best determination for us. When he left, I bear in mind telling our workers that child has acquired particular expertise and if he matures like I believe he’s able to, he’s going to be an incredible participant. And right here we’re.”
That is the first-ever assembly between WVU and Houston on the gridiron. The Cougars are nonetheless in search of their first Huge 12 convention victory.
The Mountaineers will play every of the opposite three Huge 12 newcomers — UCF (Oct. 28), BYU (Nov. 4) and Cincinnati (Nov. 18) — later this season.