WVU football: Sims’ success equates to Mountaineers’ wins
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Charles Sims could be at the University of Houston, leading the American Athletic Conference in rushing, playing for the conference's top scoring offense and showing the way for a team that's in first place for an automatic bid to a Bowl Championship Series game as league champ.
He is instead at West Virginia, not far from the league lead in rushing, but not near any of the other accolades as he helps the Mountaineers push late in the season for a 12th consecutive bowl game.
It is what he wanted, though, as he graduated after three seasons and four years and left the Cougars so he could measure himself against better competition in a superior league.
Sims did something Saturday nobody had done before him.
He ran for a season-high 154 yards in a 30-27 win against TCU, the most rushing yards ever by an opponent during the 13 seasons Gary Patterson has been the head coach.
"I was just playing my game and making plays," he said.
That meant WVU was winning. He averages 112.5 rushing yards in wins and just 60.9 yards in losses. The Mountaineers (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) changed their fortunes against TCU, and for the remainder of the season, with a three-play, 87-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter. Sims ran for 29 yards on the first play and for a 31-yard touchdown to cap the drive.
He finished the game with 24 carries and three receptions for 35 yards, including a 13-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the fourth quarter for a 27-17 lead. He hadn't scored more than once in a game his 27 touches and 7.0-yard average on plays were his high marks this season.
"He can handle about anything we do with him," WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said.
That's important because the Mountaineers are asking Sims to do more at the end of his only season with the team. There was a simple explanation for his rushing total Saturday, which was the fourth-best of his career.
"Probably because we gave it to him a good bit," Holgorsen said.
Sims is a running back, but that title limits his role and his impact. He is not to be solely measured by rushing yardage or by carries. He's been used more lately in the passing game and is even returning kickoffs now, something he never did at Houston.
And why not? The numbers state that the Mountaineers do better when Sims is more involved. In WVU's four wins, Sims has 24, 19, 23 and 27 touches - an average of 23.5 per game. In the five losses, he's had 13, 16, 21, 22 and 15 touches - an average of 17.4 per game.
In wins, he averages 147.3 yards from scrimmage. In losses, he averages 93 yards from scrimmage. He's more productive with more opportunities, too, averaging 6.3 yards per touch in wins and 5.3 per touch in losses.
"Charles is a special player, we all know that," Holgorsen said. "I've been saying that since the day he arrived here. He's a special player in the run game and a special player in the pass game.
"No other backs in the country do as much as he does. We're talking about running the ball, being a receiver out of the backfield and lining up as a receiver and making plays down the field."
That's not quite accurate, but it's not far from reality. Sims, who was the only player in the country with at least 600 yards rushing and receiving when he was a freshman in 2009, is No. 15 nationally with 1,054 yards from scrimmage. That ranks 10th among running backs.
He's only one of four players with at least 700 yards rushing and 300 yards receiving. Sims (754 yards rushing, 300 yards receiving) trails Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews (1, 290/368), South Carolina's Mike Davis (1,058/326) and Tulsa's Trey Watts (737/322) in combined yards.
Arizona State's D.J. Foster (43) and Watts (37) are the only running backs in the country with more receptions than Sims, whose 36 catches are second on the team to freshman Daikiel Shorts' 37.
Sims is also second in the Big 12 in rushing yardage and third in rushing yards per game (83.78). Baylor's Lache Seastrunk leads in both with 869 yards and 124.14 per game.
What differentiates Sims, though, is that he's not merely catching screen passes, check-downs and simple throws out into the flat. He's become more involved in more complicated parts of the passing game.
"I can line up at receiver instead of going out in motion," Sims said. "I can lineup at receiver and run routes."
That was something Holgorsen said would take time before the start of the season because learning a separate position would take away from practice time at his primary position. Gradually, though, he's worked to take on more responsibilities, which is something his teammates quickly came to expect.
"He's not a vocal guy. He doesn't say anything," center Pat Eger said. "But when it comes to practice, when it comes to games, he's going to give you everything he's got for four quarters, or more. Every practice, every game, he's going to give you everything he's got. I'm very happy to have him back there."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.