West Virginia University defensive coordinator Vic Koenning has compared the problems the Mountaineers face on defense to attempting to plug leaking holes with your finger and not having enough hands to keep the water out.
One of the larger holes WVU is attempting to plug is with its red zone defense, which ranks among the worst in both the Big 12 and the country at the moment.
Neal Brown said on his portion of the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference Monday that with some extra time between now and West Virginia’s next game — Oct. 31 at Baylor — the plan is to “reset” several aspects of his football team, specifically mentioning the red zone defense as an area very much in need of improvement.
The numbers paint a grim picture.
West Virginia is allowing opposing offenses to score 89.66 percent of the time in the red zone, which places the Mountaineers in a tie for 116th (out of 130 team) with Boston College. Also consider this: the Mountaineers have faced 29 red zone scoring opportunities (tied for 101st with six other schools) and have allowed points on 26 of those attempts (tied for 112th with Bowling Green, Illinois, Charlotte and Boston College).
Of those 26 scores, the Mountaineers have allowed 21 touchdowns — good enough for a tie at 117th (and only two back of 129th-place Connecticut).
West Virginia allowed No. 5 Oklahoma to score five out of six times it entered the red zone, with four of those coming on touchdowns.
“We’ve got to get our red zone defense improved,” Brown said. “We’ve got to have some answers there.”
Snaps are scarce
Brown was asked about the involvement of fullback Logan Thimmons on Saturday against Oklahoma, and while noting that the fullback had a decent showing against the Sooners, Brown also mentioned that the total number of snaps the Mountaineers are taking each game is not a very high number.
“I don’t have it right in front of me, but it was 12 to 15 snaps in the game,” Brown said of Thimmons. “We’re not snapping the ball as much as you’d like. He played 12 to 15 snaps and I think he was productive on probably about half of those.”
West Virginia has snapped the ball 464 times this season — an average of 58 per game. The Mountaineers average just 4.74 yards per play, which is among the lowest averages in the nation and last in the Big 12. A large contributing factor to that number has been WVU’s run game, which Brown also mentioned as an area of emphasis in the team’s reset this week.
“We’re going to evaluate all things,” Brown said. “We’re doing a bunch of self-scout as we speak. We’ve got to be able to run the football. This team is not necessarily built to be a team that can throw it 50-plus times, so we’ve got to be able to get ahead of the chains.”
Brown said he will provide an update on the Mountaineers’ injury situation at his Tuesday press conference.
WVU linebacker Josh Chandler left Saturday’s loss at Oklahoma with what appeared to be a right knee injury and did not return. Senior cornerback Keith Washington missed his second consecutive game with what Brown has called a “lower body” injury.