Thursday, December 8, 2016

WVU’s defense still hoping to improve

Justin Arndt (30) celebrates WVU's win over Kansas State on October 1, 2016. (Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

Justin Arndt (30) celebrates WVU’s win over Kansas State on October 1, 2016.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–The 10th-ranked West Virginia University football team is off to a 6-0 start and a big reason why is the Mountaineers’ defensive play.

WVU’s defense has shut down some of the country’s top offenses on more than one occasion.

The Mountaineers have allowed just  27 total points the last two weeks against offenses averaging 50.3 (Texas Tech) and 35.9 (TCU).

WVU has not allowed an opponent to complete more than 50 percent of its third-down attempts in 29 of the past 31 games. They held the Horned Frogs to an 18.2 percent completion of their third-down attempts.

The Mountaineers know how to stop opponents in the red zone. They rank ninth in the country in touchdown percentage against (42.9 percent).

WVU’s defense is ranked No. 12 nationally and No. 2 in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense.

Through six games, the Mountaineers have been able to stop the run and an air game.

Last week Patrick Mahomes and the Red Raiders lit up the scoreboard in an offensive showdown against Oklahoma. Mahomes threw for an FBS-record tying 734 yards. But the week prior WVU’s defense held him to 305 yards.

Two weeks prior, the Mountaineers stopped Kansas State’s run heavy offense, allowing just 98 rushing yards.

Rasul Douglas (13) runs down the field after intercepting TCU quarterback Kenny Hill's pass on Saturday, October, 22, 2016.  (Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

Rasul Douglas (13) runs down the field after intercepting TCU quarterback Kenny Hill’s pass on Saturday, October, 22, 2016.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

Despite performing well enough to remain unbeaten, WVU’s defense is far from where they want to be.

“We made some mistakes,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. “We could have had another couple turnovers the other day and dropped some. But we still have a lot of stuff to clean up. We are not close to being where we need to be. Our kids aren’t satisfied. We’re not satisfied. Obviously, we got to continue to keep getting better.”

Gibson was referring to his “DAWGS” performance against TCU. Despite holding the Horned Frogs to just 10 points, the Mountaineer defenders missed tackles and failed to create turnovers with the exception of redshirt senior cornerback Rasul Douglas’ interception in the first quarter.

“The one thing that I was disappointed in last week was the three turnovers that we got, only one of them was from our defense,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Rasul did a great job of breaking on the ball and ran that thing down 30-some yards. That’s been a priority in this room with our team. He did a great job of that.”

Gibson and the coaching staff aren’t fretting just yet.

“They get it,” he said. “They play hard, they battle. They’re just great kids. They’re fun to coach and they find a way to win.”

Consistency will be the key for WVU’s defense to continue getting better.

WVU linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton (3) tries to bring down TCU's Kyle Hicks (21) on Saturday, October 22, 2016.  (Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose)

WVU linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton (3) tries to bring down TCU’s Kyle Hicks (21) on Saturday, October 22, 2016.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose)

“Just staying consistent, open field tackles, getting pressure on the quarterback, just little things like that,” linebacker David Long said.

The road ahead isn’t getting any easier for the Mountaineers as they travel to Stillwater to take another brutal offense.

Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph is the conference’s best quarterback in the pocket and Oklahoma State is averaging 41.1 points and 480.4 yards of total offense per game.

“That’s one thing about him, he’s pretty efficient,” linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton said. “I think he’s better throwing the ball than maybe some of the quarterbacks we’ve played. Where he may not have as much athleticism and mobility as those guys do, he has a little more confidence standing back there in the pocket and throwing the ball deep. So that will be one of the biggest things with him, he is, in my opinion, one of the best guys passing the ball that we will see this year.”
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS

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