Keys to the Game: Like usual, WVU’s success depends on ground game

Gold and Blue Nation

The Guaranteed Rate Bowl will come down to the ground game -- a usual story for WVU this season

For the second straight year under Neal Brown the Mountaineers are closing their season in bowl. What maybe the most impressive part is this team started the year just 2-4 but closed with a 4-2 mark……. To earn their second straight bowl win here’s a look at some of the keys to victory. 

As it’s been all year, the number one key is WVU’s ability to run the ball. When they ran for more than 100 yards this season, they were 6-0 — when they did not, they were 0-6. In fact, West Virginia is 13-0 under Neal Brown when they run for more than 100 yards, but 3-18 when they do not.

The decision of two-time one-thousand-yard rusher Leddie Brown to not play in the bowl game makes this an even bigger challenge for the Mountaineers. That puts the workload on the shoulders of Tony Mathis — in the Kansas game he showed he can be a number one guy carrying the ball 22 times for 118 yards.

In this game, however, the Mountaineers will be facing the ninth-ranked rush defense in the country, the Golden Gophers allow 100.2 yards rushing per game. In their last outing against Wisconsin, they held the Badgers to just 62 yards on the ground.

On the other side of the ball the WVU defense will be facing a very physical and strong offensive line that leads the way for Minnesota’s 193.8-yards per game rushing attack. The WVU defense ranked 34th nationally against the run this year, giving up 129.3 yards per contest.

The Gophers rely on the running game so much they only throw the ball on average 20 times a game and ranked 115th in passing yards this season.

Catch Scott’s full Keys to the Game segment on the Mountaineer GameDay Bowl Special, which airs on Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. ET on West Virginia Nexstar stations at AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh.

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