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Film Study: Why West Virginia’s third quarters are running on empty

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For two straight weeks, West Virginia’s offense has given fans little reason to hurry back to their seats from their halftime bathroom break.

The Mountaineers have moved the ball with a 19th-century level of efficiency in their past two third quarters, gaining 19 yards against Texas and 28 yards against Iowa State.

“As coaches, we’ve got to figure out some better ways to get guys into situations,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said following a 38-14 loss to Iowa State. “I could give you a bunch of reasons. It was a struggle for us offensively. It was a struggle last week in the third quarter. It is what you saw.”

Because no one should have to see it again, we’ve decided to do the dirty work for you, dear reader.

We’ve taken an in-depth look at each third-quarter offensive play run by West Virginia against Texas and Iowa State. And since both games were still in the balance at the time, we are also throwing in a bonus look at WVU’s opening possessions of each fourth quarter.

Texas

West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall (12) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the Texas Longhorns at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium.

First possesion

Situation: First-and-10

Field position: Texas 49

The play: Gifted excellent field position, the Mountaineers go deep. Unfortunately, Texas cornerback D’Shawn Jamison wrestles the ball away from Sam James for a remarkable one-handed interception.

Verdict: It was the perfect play call, but Austin Kendall short-armed a pass that could have been a touchdown if it was run to perfection. It’s doubtful that many teams have players capable of actually turning that throw into an interception, but the margin is thin against a team with Texas’ caliber of athletes.

Second possession

Situation: First-and-10

Field position: WVU 28

The play: If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen much of tight end Jovani Haskins lately, this play is a good reason why. Haskins completely whiffs on his blocking assignment, hanging Kennedy McKoy out to dry for a six-yard loss.

Situation: Second-and-16

Field position: WVU 22

The play: False start on right guard Chase Berhndt

Verdict: The last two plays of this possession are rendered irrelevant once WVU ends up in a second-and-21 from its own 17. At that point, the goal is to make sure you’re not punting from your own end zone. The Mountaineers gained 12 yards on the next two plays to avoid that fate.

Third possession

Situation: First-and-10

Field position: WVU 10

The play: Kendall connects with Sean Ryan for nine yards.

Situation: Second-and-1

Field position: WVU 19

The play: With the whole playbook open, West Virginia hands it to Leddie Brown for the sure first-down carry. It’s the right call given the length of the previous two possessions.

Situation: First-and-10

Field position: WVU 22

The play: Kendall finds Sam James for four yards.

Situation: Second-and-6

Field position: WVU 26

The play: Another short pass, this one a three-yarder to James, presents the Mountaineers with a mangeable third down.

Situation: Third-and-3

Field position: WVU 29

The play: The Mountaineers attempt cut-blocking the Texas defensive line. It fails miserably. Three Longhorns get penetration and Marquez Bimage easily bats down Kendall’s pass attempt before it gets to the line of scrimmage. And if Bimage hadn’t knocked it down, someone else would have.

Verdict: Chalk the failure of this drive up to the coaches getting too cute. Texas knew exactly what was coming on third down.

Fourth possession

The situation: First-and-10

Field position: Texas 14

The play: With an opportunity to tie the game following Keith Washington’s big interception return, the Mountaineers go with… an Austin Kendall option keeper. Way to go for the jugular, guys.

The situation: Second-and-9

Field position: Texas 13

The play: Incompletion. Either Kendall throws the ball too early, or James is late to get into his break. It still goes down as a drop, but the ball arrived before James was expecting it.

The situation: Third-and-9

Field position: Texas 13

The play: Kendall checks down to a crossing James for a 1-yard gain on a pattern that had no chance in hell of gaining a first down. For what it’s worth, Brown is seen shouting at wide receivers coach Xavier Dye after the play is over.

The verdict: It’s hard to do much worse than this on a potential game-tying possession that started in the opponent’s red zone. A combination of play-calling and execution are to blame.

Fifth possession (First of fourth quarter)

The situation: First-and-10

Field position: WVU 8

The play: Four Horns meet Leddie Brown in the backfield for a three-yard loss. Brown isn’t the type of guy who goes down on first contact, so this is a mass blocking failure.

The situation: Second-and-13

Field position: WVU 5

The play: Kendall hits Brown out of the backfield for a 12-yard gain.

The situation: Third-and-1

Field position: WVU 17

The play: Texas nickel back B.J. Foster makes an incredible play to break up a pass to Ryan and come down with an interception.

The verdict: Neal Brown blamed himself for this one, saying he should have run in this situation. And maybe he was right. But had Kendall gone through his progressions, he would have seen a wide-open Mike O’Laughlin past the sticks and picked up the first down.

Iowa State

Ben Queen/USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State Cyclones defensive end Zach Petersen (55) celebrates after tackling West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Jack Allison (11) for a sack during the third quarter at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium.

First possession

The situation: First-and-10

Field position: WVU 24

The play: A draw to Kennedy McKoy goes for a one-yard loss as right tackle Kelby Wickline and right guard Chase Behrndt are both beaten by their Iowa State counterparts.

The situation: Second-and-11

Field position: WVU 23

The play: A two-yard loss for McKoy as Iowa State defensive lineman Matt Leo shoves Behrndt four yards off the line of scrimmage before making the tackle.

The situation: Third-and-13

Field position: WVU 21

The play: Jack Allison finds T.J. Simmons for a 14-yard gain and a massive conversion.

The situation: First-and-10

Field position: WVU 35

The play: After finding success through the air, West Virginia runs an old-school quarterback option with Allison, a pocket passer who may well be the slowest non-lineman or kicker on the team. That Allison gained a yard is a credit to him.

The situation: Second-and-9

Field position: WVU 36

The play: Allison doesn’t appear to make any reads and dumps the ball off to poor McKoy, who is immediately swallowed up for a one-yard loss. This is just a bad play. Allison had a perfect pocket and plenty of time to look for something downfield, but did not.

The situation: Third-and-10

Field position: WVU 35

The play: Iowa State defensive lineman Zach Peterson starts on the right side of the offensive line before looping over to the left to sack Allison on a delayed blitz. This was simply a perfect defensive play call. Once McKoy left the backfield as a receiver, there were no blockers left to account for Peterson.

The verdict: Co-offensive coordinator Matt Moore said that Allison actually ran the option play successfully in a scrimmage setting, so the play call wasn’t as wacky as it looked. However, it appears his success in practice may have had a lot more to do with going against West Virginia’s linebackers than any other factor.

Second possession

The situation: First-and-10

Field position: WVU 27

The play: Iowa State crashes into the backfield, but Allison makes a brilliant escape and finds Simmons for a first down.

The situation: First-and-10

Field position: WVU 37

The play: McKoy gains three yards on a draw.

The situation: Second-and-7

Field position: WVU 40

The play: Sam James gains two yards on a tunnel screen. This had potential to be a big play, but center Briason Mays overran his man, who made the tackle.

The situation: Third-and-5

Field position: WVU 42

The play: McKoy drops a potential first down that hits him right in the mitts. This one should have been caught, period.

The verdict: A failure of execution by the players ended up being the primary factor cutting this drive short.

Third possession

The situation: First-and-10

Field position: WVU 6

The play: Allison hits O’Laughlin for a short gain.

The situation: Second-and-6

Field position: WVU 10

The play: McKoy gains three yards to give West Virginia a manageable third down.

The situation: Third-and-3

Field position: WVU 13

The play: Incompletion. Allison goes back to O’Laughlin, who is surrounded by three Cyclones. Once again, Allison was impatient with his delivery. If he moved down his progressions, he’d have found a wide-open Simmons.

Fourth possession (First of fourth quarter)

The situation: First-and-10

Field position: WVU 24

The play: James carries for a three-yard gain.

The situation: Second-and-7

Field position: WVU 27

The play: Allison hits James on a screen to gain another three yards, once again giving West Virginia a manageable third down.

The situation: Third-and-4

Field position: WVU 30

The play: Allison has all day to throw and finds James 15 yards downfield. Unfortunately, his arm is calibrated for someone 20 yards downfield. Even Iowa State’s defensive backs seem confused by how badly he misses this throw. To make matters worse, Allison once again fails to check down and doesn’t see a wide-open Leddie Brown, who would have easily gotten past the first-down marker on the play.

The final verdict

Ineptitude of this order has multiple culprits.

Obviously, Allison’s poor play in the second half was a major factor, but he wasn’t exactly given any help on the second drive. He can’t be blamed for the failures of the Texas game, either.

Inconsistent offensive line play is a common thread between the two scoreless third quarters. Given West Virginia’s lack of depth up front, that problem doesn’t have a potential resolution this season.

Some dodgy play calling, particularly on first down, also factors into the equation. The Kendall read-option on the first play after an interception return and the Allison option keeper after a huge third down conversion immediately squelched West Virginia’s momentum.

Unfortunately, finding a solution won’t be very simple this week. Oklahoma is outscoring its opponents 94-48 in the third quarter this year.

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West Virginia: Help Wanted!

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, West Virginia’s unemployment rate in August was 4.6 percent.  That’s a low number, although context is important here.

The national unemployment rate in August was just 3.7 percent.  The 4.6 percent rate for West Virginia was still among the highest in the nation, with a ranking of 45th.

But the issue in West Virginia and many other states now is the shortage of workers.  Demand for qualified employees is outstripping supply, according to Tim Henderson of Pew Research.

“A labor shortage is jeopardizing economic expansion in almost every state, putting pressure on lawmakers to find ways to attract more residents and coax people who have dropped out of the workforce to rejoin it,” Henderson wrote in an article for Stateline.

Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that in 39 states there are more jobs available than people looking for work.  That’s a significant shift from a decade ago, when in every state there were more people looking for work than jobs available

In 2009, figures show West Virginia had 4.2 people searching for work for every individual job available.  Today that figure is one to one… just one available worker for every open position.

Economic growth in West Virginia has contributed to the worker shortage. That’s the good news. But there are also systemic problems that make it harder for employers to find reliable help.

The WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research released figures at last week’s Economic Outlook conference in Charleston that show the state continues to have the lowest workforce participation rate in the country, at just 54 percent.  The national average is 63 percent.

Also, the state’s population is stagnant.  There are not enough people moving to West Virginia, while our young people continue to migrate elsewhere.

States are trying creative ways to attract more workers, such as more spending on skills training.  West Virginia is using that approach with West Virginia Invests. Under this new last-dollar-in grant program pushed through by Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson), the state will help pay community and technical college tuition and fees.

Community and Technical College Education Chancellor Sarah Tucker said the schools are offering programs based on workforce needs in hopes of getting more people the training they need to enter the job market.

“There are jobs, and that’s what’s frustrating,” she said recently.  “What we need is to get people to fill those jobs.”

North Dakota is following a similar track.  That state approved a measure earlier this year sponsored by Republican Senator Jim Grueneich to fund more college level job training.

“It doesn’t matter where I go.  Everybody is crying the same thing: ‘We need more help,’” he told Stateline.  “We need electricians and plumbers and truck drivers. There’s a mindset that you need a master’s degree, but our people are getting those degrees and coming back and working the trades.”

West Virginia’s low unemployment rate is a good thing, but it’s not the whole story.  What our state needs is not an ever-declining jobless rate, but rather a better trained and available workforce for the jobs that exist in a growing economy.

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MetroNews, WCHS receive Murrow award

Radio Television Digital News Directors Association

NBC’s Craig Melvin presenting MetroNews’ Shauna Johnson with the award for best newscast of the year in the small market radio division.

NEW YORK — West Virginia MetroNews and affiliate WCHS-AM in Charleston were among the news organizations recognized Monday at the Edward R. Murrow Awards Gala in New York City.

The news organization was honored for best newscast of the year in the small market radio division for the Feb. 22, 2018 edition of “The Morning News,” hosted by Chris Lawrence and Shauna Johnson. The program covered the West Virginia teachers’ strike among other stories.

The Radio Television Digital News Association hosted the awards ceremony. More than 100 news organizations were recognized.

The recognition marked the fourth National Murrow Award the news organization has received in the last 12 years.

Johnson, who is also MetroNews’ assistant news director, accepted the award on behalf of the news outlets.

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Morgantown Utility Board moves on from Route 3 project

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Morgantown Utility Board has abandoned the revised Route 3 project in favor of a separate effort along Mississippi Street.

The board unanimously approved the change on Monday.

Compared to the Route 3 project, the Mississippi Street route is longer and will require a pump station to move water to a treatment plant. Residents in the area will have to deal with construction and related traffic until work is complete.

Board chairman J.T. Straface said the board negotiated in reaching a deal on the Route 3 project, but members were unable to reach an agreement.

“In every transaction, it is the seller’s right to set the price, and the right of the buyer to accept or decline,” he said. “Each agency is obligated to act in the best interests of its mission. For the best interest of its ratepayers, MUB has chosen to decline the price for the pipeline license.”

“We are committed to completing the pipeline as soon as possible because the ultimate goal of providing a safe water supply for our community cannot be compromised or delayed,” Straface added.

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Smith dives further into election message

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A week after his latest campaign finance report showed a strong count of small-dollar donations, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stephen Smith appeared on MetroNews “Talkline” to provide more insight into his platform.

Smith’s third-quarter report showed his campaign collected $149,816 in contributions, with an overwhelming amount from small-dollar donors.

“By having a campaign that’s really owned by and listening to everyday people, they say, yeah, I want to be part of that and I’m going to pitch in, whether it’s my ideas or my time or $5 a month,” he said.

When the conversation shifted to education, Smith said teachers’ salaries should be competitive with neighboring states, meaning a 10% raise.

“It’s not just about paying working people and our teachers what they’re worth, although that’s important,” he said. “It’s also about making sure we stop losing talent. By some measure, some 900 teacher vacancies going into this school year. You wouldn’t run any kind of business or organization where a large percent of your workforce doesn’t even exist because you aren’t paying a decent wage.”

To pay the raises, Smith pitched raising the severance tax on natural gas to 10%.

“What we’ve seen every time a state increases its severance tax is there has not been a side-by-side decrease in the gas business, and we don’t think there would be a major decrease,” he said. “There’s so much money being made and there’s so few places for people to get the gas that we’ll think they’ll stay.”

Smith said the additional revenue would also go toward infrastructure, which would allow West Virginia to lead in wind and solar energy in the future.

“We set ourselves up for a future that our kids can have a decent job not just now, but 10 and 20 and 30 years from now,” he added.

Smith said his campaign will put out a platform on other items as the election season continues, but it will take more than a governor for change to happen; he noted his West Virginia Can’t Wait movement is looking to recruit up to 20 candidates for the primary.

“One governor is not the solution,” he said.

Individuals already recruited to West Virginia Can’t Wait include U.S. Senate candidate Paula Jean Swearengin and 2nd Congressional District candidate Cathy Kunkel.

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Gee focuses State of the University address on future, availability

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University President Gordon Gee started this year’s State of the University address with a reference to an American president.

“The wisdom of the past, especially as articulated by Abraham Lincoln, provides a guidepost for the future, especially for the land-grant universities he signed into law,” he said.

Gee quoted Lincoln several times on Monday, tying the 16th president to his vision for the university.

Gee told the audience West Virginia University should be available to all students. He added Lincoln would have wanted university members to “build bridges instead of walls,” and prepare for the future in the process.

“We must topple the tyranny of the department and the college by restructuring our institutions,” Gee said. “Rather than organizing our teaching and learning functions for obsolescence, we must imagine the world in 20 years and reverse engineer.”

Gee said while national and international recognition is worthwhile, it is not what the university needs to be successful.

“We must reject the relentless pursuit of money and prestige — chasing rankings that we know are deeply flawed — at the expense of genuine educational excellence,” Gee said.

Gee cited a recent report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy, which found only six flagship institutions of the nation’s 50 are affordable for most students.

Following Gee’s remarks, Maryanne Reed, the university’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, also outlined priorities to increase relevance, advance the school’s reputation, grow revenue and build strong relationships.

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Photo gallery: Logan collects first win, blanking Scott 35-0

LOGAN, W.Va. — Photos from Logan’s 35-0 Homecoming Game victory over Scott.

(Photos courtesy of Boothe Davis/Captured by the Moment Photography)

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Statewide substance abuse forums begin this week

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Beginning Tuesday, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Office of Drug Control Policy and the Governor’s Council on Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment will host six regional public forums regarding the West Virginia Substance Use Response Plan.

Among the topics of discussion will be the current substance use environment in West Virginia, existing activities and initiatives to date, a framework of evidence-based goals, strategies, and objectives to address current gaps and needs.

“We’re going to collect all the information we get from the online process and public input and take a hard look in early November,” Bob Hansen, Executive Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy for the West Virginia DHHR told MetroNews.

Bob Hansen

“We want to incorporate these recommendations into a more final plan and present the plan to the Governor’s Council (on Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment).”

Tuesday’s event will be held at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center on Armory Drive in Beckley, followed by a forum Wednesday at the WVU Parkersburg Campus Multipurpose Room on Campus Drive.

Next week, discussions will take place Oct. 21 on the University of Charleston campus, in the ballroom on the third floor of the Geary Student Union on MacCorkle Avenue, Oct. 22 at the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office Training Center on South Raleigh Street in Martinsburg, Oct. 23 at Wheeling University’s Swint Hall on Washington Avenue and Oct. 24 at the Robert H. Mollohan Research Center on Galliher Drive in Fairmont.

All of the meetings will begin at 4:30 p.m. with on-site registration starting at 4:00.

Public comments can be submitted during the forums.

“This is an important process over the next two to three weeks to collect input so we can finalize the plan,” Hansen said. “Our goal is to have the plan ready for the first of the year.”

On Tuesday, Gov. Jim Justice will join Hansen to officially unveil the Jobs & Hope West Virginia program; the state’s new, comprehensive response to the substance use disorder crisis.

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Photo gallery: Thundering Herd defeat Monarchs for third win of season

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall snapped a two-game skid and improved to 3-3 with Saturday’s 31-17 victory over Old Dominion.

(Photos by Angie Shockley)

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Marshall set to test campus wide emergency alert system

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Tuesday morning around the Marshall and Huntington area, nearly 18,000 people will receive an emergency alert. However, it will be a test of the MU Alert emergency messaging system.

Marshall community members who are subscribed to the alert system will receive calls, texts, and emails around 10 a.m. as part of the once a semester test.

“This would allow the university to communicate in the event of an emergency to the Marshall community,”  Leah Payne, a Marshall spokesperson said. “That’s students, faculty and staff who have signed up for the system.”

According to Payne, the MU Alert emergency notifications are limited to those concerning urgent health and safety concerns for Marshall students, faculty or staff; or disruption of normal university functions due to weather, crime or other concerns.

The criteria used by campus officials before sending out an alert are as follows: Did a crime occur?; Did the crime occur on campus property or on other Clery reportable property?; Is the crime a Clery reportable crime?; Is there a serious or continuing threat to the campus community?.

“This is very important. In this day and time, you need to be connected and the immediacy is very important.,” Payne said.

She added that any subscriber that does not receive the alert by Noon on Tuesday needs to review and update their contact information. Payne also encourages anyone involved with the Marshall community to subscribe.

The most recent test of the system occurred on January 31.

More information about the MU Alert system is available at www.marshall.edu/emergency/mualert.

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