MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–It was no secret that West Virginia University head coach Dana Holgorsen and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson were both frustrated with the defensive’s poor performance in the Mountaineers’ 38-21 victory over Youngstown State on Saturday, September 10.
According to defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, the defense missed tackles and assignments with their lackluster effort against the FCS opponent.
“I thought we could cover them, but obviously we can’t,” Gibson said after the win. “The game plan didn’t work. We gave up 400 yards to an FCS team. Not taking away anything from Youngstown because I think they’re a good ball club, but it’s a whole different level.”
The lack of effort from the WVU defense came from underestimating the Penguins.
“It’s a mindset when it comes down to tackling someone,” senior safety Jeremy Tyler said. “You got to want to tackle someone. I feel like we was just lacking in the mental aspect of the game because we knew it wasn’t really going to be a tough challenge. But Youngstown came out with a chip on its shoulder. But I think it’s a possibility of a lack of focus.”
Mental miscues are one thing the Mountaineers cannot afford when they take on the Brigham Young University Cougars on Saturday at Fed Ex Field.
Despite a 1-2 record and recent offensive woes, BYU can be a dangerous opposition.
And a bye week between the two games was just what WVU required to regroup and refocus.
“I like where we’re at,” Gibson said. “I think we had two really good practices last week. We had a really good practice Sunday night. So I think the kids are excited.”
The Mountaineers spent the last two weeks concentrating on tackling, completing assignments and the little things it takes to get the job done.
“Just making sure we tackle better, playing with better effort,” redshirt junior linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton said. “We didn’t play a very good effort week two. And just the fundamentals, the little things. Getting yourself out of position and making sure you make the plays when you are in position. I think that was the difference in what we did in Game one and Game two. We’ve been working on that and I expect to see a better showing in this game coming up.”
Just how do you fix the tackling mistakes?
“Simply just practicing, being under control, trusting your technique, head up, eyes up, all that sort of stuff, stuff you’ve been taught since little league,” redshirt senior linebacker Justin Arndt said. “Just repetition, simple.”
For Gibson the fact his squad came out with the win in the face of an inadequate performance, helps the coach get through to his players.
“We got to teach a lot of stuff, went back over some mistakes,” Gibson said. “It’s always easier coming off a win to teach than it is a loss. So you get their attention and say hey guys we did this well and we didn’t do this very well. We’ve worked a lot at tackling over the last couple of practices and we will continue to do that.”
WVU’s defense just needs to get its rhythm back.
“We’ve been working on that to make sure everybody gets their technique down, get their technique sound,” Benton said. “The way these guys play they’re going to be very technically sound so we have to match that if not do it better in order to win this game.”
The coaching staff doesn’t think Mountaineer fans should fret just yet over the defense’s execution.
“So far, knock on wood, I thought we’ve done a pretty good job,” safeties coach Matt Caponi said. “We played really well against Missouri, especially in space with them, trying to spread us out and up-tempo and everything. I think we took a step back against Youngstown, as far as just from a tackling standpoint; I don’t think we did very well. With the bye week and this week we’ve just been harping on how we have to get better at tackling and doing some things in practice to make sure that we get back to where we were during the Missouri game. We still have to clean up a few things, and I think the effort has been good, but there’s always room for improvement.”
Photo Credit: Kelsie VanderWijst, BGS