When the West Virginia University football team entered the 2014 season, nobody thought the Mountaineers would be sitting at 6-2 and battling for a Big 12 Championship.
With No. 10 TCU coming to Morgantown this Saturday in front of a national televised ABC audience and with ESPN College Gameday coming to town, that’s what West Virginia is fighting for.
While the offense has moved the football and put points on the board, its the Mountaineer defense that’s finally getting the attention they deserve. You can’t blame the media for playing the “wait and see” game when it comes to the WVU defense. After all, this is a unit that was often out of position, couldn’t tackle and couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down last season.
Move to 2014, and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has the defense looking like a new penny. With much of the credit going to Gibson, you can’t forget about the addition of Tom Bradley. If anyone knows football and defense, it’s Bradley.
The two long time friends have proven to be a lethal pair.
When thinking about the defensive improvements, let these facts sink in.
- WVU has allowed two teams to score on the opening possession of the game, only one being a touchdown.
- WVU has forced 36 three-and-outs this season, averaging 4.6 per game.
- The defense is allowing 4.6 points per game in the first quarter this season.
- WVU ranks No. 2 in the Big 12 and No. 13 nationally holding opponents to a combined 39 of 127 (30.7%) on 3rd down this season.
- WVU held Baylor and Oklahoma State to a 16% 3rd down conversation rate. 5 of 31.
- Shaq Riddick is 3rd in the Big 12 in sacks with six
- Nick Kwiatkoski leads the team in tackles (62), solo stops (42) and tackles for loss (9).
- Dravon Henry became the first Mountaineer since Brodrick Jenkins (Rutgers-2011) to record 2 interceptions in a game.
The Mountaineer defense will need another strong showing this Saturday.
TCU comes to Milan Puskar Stadium with the 6th ranked passing offense at 360-yard per game. The Horned Frogs are also 1st in the nation in scoring at 50.4 while only giving up 21.6 points per game.
Quarterback Trevone Boykin has found his way on the Heisman ballot, and it’s well deserved.
Boykin is 168 of 286 for 2306 yards, 23 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. TCU is averaging 8.6 yards per completion, but they will take several shots down the field, something the defensive will need to be prepared for.
“He scrambles around, and he has a very strong arm where he is athletic enough to get away from the rush,” Gibson said. “He will be running to his left and jump and then throw it back to his right 40 yards down field. I seen him do it four or five times. He has a very strong arm, and he gets away from it. He sees it. He is not a kid that plays cautious. He is reckless, but he makes plays as he’s doing it. He is playing at a high level right now.”
With the Mountaineers on the national stage once again, Gibson and the WVU defense will need to dial up another gem. If the first 8 games of the season are any indication, this one may go down to the foot of Josh Lambert.
WVU and TCU will kickoff at 3:30 on ABC, and the game has been designated a True Blue by West Virginia University.