Viola: West Virginia Defense Showing Some Life
MORGANTOWN – It’s a phrase that was repeated time and time again in Morgantown throughout the month of August.
The defense will be better because of experience.
Few probably thought the statement to be true when, during the first game of the season, West Virginia found itself down 17-7 at halftime to FCS opponent William & Mary.
Still, even after the Mountaineers won the game, questions surrounded the defense.
In last week’s game against Oklahoma, however, a few of those questions finally seemed to get some answers.
Yes the Sooners came away with a victory, but the loss can’t be pinned solely on the defense. It was the offense that was mostly at fault as it missed opportunity after opportunity to capitalize when the defense gave it the ball back, which it did four times.
The defense actually played OK.
Well, ”just average” according to coach Dana Holgorsen, but still, average seems to be a lot better from where the unit has been.
”I believe we did some good things,” defensive lineman Kyle Rose said. ”We had like 10 tackles for loss. We definitely changed the line of scrimmage. Obviously, we didn’t do enough that we needed to do to get the win. We game planned pretty well for it. We have some things we need to work on. We need to get off blocks a little better and play harder when they run the ball.”
Oklahoma rushed 57 times for 316 yards in the victory.
But, the run defense is something that defensive coordinator Keith Patterson says is a lot better than what people think.
”It just boils down to doing what you’re coached to do,” Patterson said. ”We had some misalignments. Everybody is talking about our rush defense and if I’m not mistaken, for their first 30 rush attempts, they only had 115 yards. That’s just like 3.2 yards per carry and 115 yards rushing on 30 carries, that’s not too bad of rush defense.”
The pass defense wasn’t too shabby, either.
The Sooners threw for only 119 yards and Darwin Cook and Karl Joseph both came away with interceptions.
”We felt like that if we wanted a chance to win, we had to force some turnovers,” Patterson said. ”I was very pleased with that. Our kids went out a couple of times with their backs against the wall, and we got two key interceptions. I was very pleased with that. We have to try to get that ball back to our offense as quickly as possible and to do that, we have to create turnovers. We got off the field seven times on three and outs, so we were very pleased with that as well.”
Added cornerback Ishmael Banks: ”We are more confident on defense. People know the scheme and everyone is in the right position the majority of the time. The biggest thing I would say is confidence. That is the same it is with me as well. My confidence this year has gone to another level, and I am feeling good about myself. This is the position I have always played. I am at home when I am at the corner.”
Banks, just like Cook, can’t let that early success go to his head, though.
”You make a couple good plays in the first two games, but anything can change in the next week,” Cook said. ”I just have to stay humble. After the game, I just forget about it. That early success doesn’t mean anything if I go out and stink up the field against Georgia State. I’m just focused on the next game.”
So is the rest of the unit.
”They’re a good team,” Rose said of the Panthers. ”They’re pretty explosive and have some good skill guys. The line is pretty solid and No. 2 has been making some pretty good plays. This is our first day game planning for them. You can never take a team lightly. Anybody, nowadays, can beat anybody.
”You’re not supposed to take any play for granted. You play every play to the best of your ability. We look forward to every game we play. You only have how many games in a season, so nothing is taken for granted.”
Tony Viola can be reached via e-mail at: tviola@ theintelligencer.net