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By the Numbers

Bill Stewart and the Second Half

How is West Virginia's Bill Stewart at second half adjustments?

I made a statement about West Virginia’s second half adjustments — or lack thereof — in Sunday’s post listing teams either surpassing or coming short of their preseason expectations. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers were one team I felt was not playing up to its potential, writing:

Yet I keep coming back to the fact that Bill Stewart does not seem to get his Mountaineers ready to go come kickoff; they came out flat against Marshall. His inability to make meaningful in-game adjustments is also a concern.

In response, a reader — TG — suggested otherwise:

I would argue the exact opposite regarding the last part. If anything, he, and D coordinator Jeff Casteel, have made a living off of second half changes. Watch the games, you’ll see.

Who was right? Is there a right or wrong answer? Let’s take a look at West Virginia’s offensive growth between halves, using both the two games of this past season and each of the last two years — Stewart’s era as the head coach — as evidence.

Let’s start with 2008, Stewart’s first season as Rich Rodriguez’s replacement. His Mountaineers finished 9-4 that fall, a disappointment when considering the talent he inherited. With each season, the second half numbers include any totals accrued in overtime.

2008

First half passing 101 of 151 for 906 yards, 12 TD, 3 INT
Second half passing 101 of 154 1,050 yards, 10 TD, 5 INT
First half rushing 226 carries for 1,340 yards, 5 TD
Second half rushing 291 for 1,389 yards, 10 TD
First half scoring 9.8 points per game
Second half scoring 14.0 points per game

Better first half passing numbers, better second half rushing numbers — a significantly improved scoring clip in the second half.

What of 2009, Stewart’s second season? The Mountaineers again finished 9-4, but this record was far more in line with expectations than the somewhat disappointing 2008 campaign.

2009

First half passing 126 of 191 for 1,482 yards, 7 TD, 5 INT
Second half passing 94 of 156 for 1,002 yards, 5 TD, 5 INT
First half rushing 239 carries for 1,147 yards, 16 TD
Second half rushing 269 carries for 1,276 yards, 13 TD
First half scoring 15.2 points per game
Second half scoring 11.8 points per game

Clearly, in all facets, a far better first half performance. Most importantly, check out the scoring differential: 15.2 points per game in the first half, 11.8 in the second.

Here’s how the Mountaineers shake out through the first two games of 2010, though it’s far too early to make any substantial claims.

2010

First half passing 24 of 31 for 244 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Second half passing 31 of 46 for 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
First half rushing 43 carries for 152 yards, 0 TD
Second half rushing 38 carries for 185 yards, 3 TD
First half scoring 6.5 points per game
Second half scoring 19.5 points per game

Again, it’s early. Still, it’s clear that the Mountaineers have been adept at identifying and exploiting opposing weaknesses, particularly on the ground.

It’s important to remember that a mere statistical discussion avoids the type of outside factors accompanying such totals: a large first half lead, for instance, typically ends with a pedestrian second half performance — West Virginia can call off the dogs. Other factors include the opposition; W.V.U. might be making hay against the weaker teams, struggling against the tougher teams.

Think of this post as a simple primer, one that touches on the subject but does go in-depth enough to truly be taken as gospel. However, even with merely a superficial look at West Virginia’s first half-second half split, it’s clear that I misspoke when bemoaning Stewart’s lack of in-game adjustments. If he’s hands-on with the offense, it’s evident that Stewart and his staff have done a nice job making changes in the locker room. I stand corrected.

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Comments

  1. Matt Rob says:

    Nice breakdown of the numbers. I was drunkenly assembling such a list myself after Friday night’s game against Marshall.

    I believe the general frustration I hear from WVU fans is because, with the exception of these three bad losses …

    2008 E. Carolina game, 2009 Gator Bowl and 2009 South Florida game

    … the other five losses in the Stewart era were the result of in-game decisions which went badly – or just bad luck.

    2008:
    Colorado (17-14 OT) – inability to complete fourth down attempts (no short-yardage back) and a missed field goal in OT

    Cincinnati (26-23 OT) – inability to complete short-yardage downs (and the worst special teams in the country)

    Pitt (19-15) – inability to complete short-yardage downs (passing on 4th and 1 ???), and giving Devine 12 handoffs in an entire game.

    2009:
    Auburn (41-30) – 4 interceptions in the fourth quarter when they were ahead and should have been running out the clock.

    Cincinnati (24-21) – Going (and failing) for it on 4th-and-8 from the 20 with 5 minutes left rather than take the points – and then eventually lose by three.

    ————

    There have been a couple of bad losses in the Stewart era, but the string of near-wins is what drives the fans crazy.

    And thankfully, the 2010 Marshall game was not added to that list.

  2. Mendenhall4Pres says:

    Matt,

    As BYU fan, I can tell you that winning the close ones and getting blown out otherwise is no picnic either. Since 2008 BYU is 7-1 in games decided by 7 points or less but 4 of their 6 losses in that time have come by at lest 21 points. BYU is excellent in tight games but every now and then complete implodes, which is maddening in its own special way. Watching BYU’s offense go into epileptic sloth mode against Air Force this week was just the latest in top-notch failure.

  3. Matt Rob says:

    I think BYU may find their wings again against Florida State this week.

  4. D. Smith says:

    When they talk about coaches on the “hot seat” I feel Coach Stewart should be in the conversation as well. I believe the program has stalled under his direction. At least, and it pains me to mention this, but the program was growing each year under Coach RR. Steward inherited a fantastic team in his first year, and the best he did was the Gator Bowl. WVU should be taking all the steps to build upon the previous coach to get better and stronger.
    These numbers do not surprise me at all. When watching the Marshall game, I thought the offense was very PREDICTABLE. Did they have better talent than us, not at all. One day they could, because Coach Doc is a fantastic recruiter. Speaking of stats, have you seen the signings for the recruits? All 3-star athletes. At least under Coach RR, we would have a few 4-star and one or two 5-star recruits. I know the conversation that you recruit for the system, and that stars are not a big factor in the big picture, but it is stats!
    I have paid money to see this team play year in and year out at home. I travel to all bowl games. I travel to as many away games as my schedule permits as I will be in Baton Rouge, LA on the 25th. I pay my dues, so is it wrong of me to ask that the program to return it’s dues to me and grow, build and make it exciting for the fans and the state of WV?
    In summary, I really enjoyed reading this article on the stats and it really does not surprise me as excitement is quite anemic. Other numbers that are scary are the quality of recruits (according to expert opinions) and the overall plateau of the program that has failed to grow over the past 2 1/2 years.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I would be interested to see the Defense stats broken down like this as well – because it seems to me (overall, not specific games) that it’s the defense that really makes the adjustments and plays a better second half.

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