By the skin of its teeth, the West Virginia football team turned its season around after the bye week, going 4-2 to finish the year with six wins and bowl eligibility.
Here's how the team did it.
West Virginia entered its bye week after being dominated by the Baylor Bears, 45-20. At 2-4, things looked bleak for the Mountaineers with a difficult final six games staring them in the face.
Then, something changed when WVU hit the road against TCU. What was one of the biggest liability to the team halfway through the season became the sudden strength.
The West Virginia offense.
In its six losses, West Virginia averaged 62 rushing yards per game. In its six victories, WVU averaged 190 rushing yards per game.
The Mountaineers never lost a game when they rushed for at least 100 yards. That is not a theory, that is a fact.
Even after WVU won back-to-back games to start the second half of the season, it still had its issues. The season looked dark after a 34-17 loss to Kansas State that had head coach Neal Brown laying things out very plainly with no margin for error.
“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us,” Neal Brown said after a loss to Kansas State. “They give out 12-game schedules. I don’t feel sorry for us. They give you 12 games; we have a home game next week and we have to get our ass ready to play.”
“It doesn’t matter how many people we have hurt,” Neal Brown added. “Texas comes to play and we better get ourselves ready to play… That’s what I told them [the team] after the game, ‘Nobody is feeling sorry for you.’ The bottom line is as coaches and as players, we didn’t get the job done.”
Neal Brown continuously mentioned down the stretch of the regular season that it wasn’t too late to start playing quality football. In the final two games against Texas and Kansas, the Mountaineers played quality football.
Against Kansas, there were some self-imposed mistakes, but West Virginia overcame them to secure a crucial victory.
Not only did the rushing offense look revitalized in the final weeks, but quarterback Jarret Doege seemed to have turned a corner. Doege wasn’t electrifying, but on many occasions, he looked like a new quarterback.
Statistically, Doege’s best performance was against Texas, going 27-of-43 (63%) for 290 yards and three touchdowns.
Doege looked better, but the key to West Virginia’s second half success this season was Leddie Brown and the rushing attack. Without Leddie Brown, the Mountaineers would’ve severely lacked in the backfield and things would’ve ended differently.
However, West Virginia does have Leddie Brown — who finished with 1,000 rushing yards for the second-straight season on Saturday — and is going to a bowl game.