‘Bad Memory’ Part Of Quick Turnaround For WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There’s no doubt that thoughts of West Virginia’s game last weekend against Oklahoma State would go into the bad memory column for Mountaineer fans. But for WVU linebacker David Long and his teammates, having a bad memory means something else.
“We just have to have a bad memory and forget what happened,” WVU’s leading tackler said.
As in, hit delete on all the events of last Saturday, and work toward Friday’s showdown with Oklahoma for a spot in the Big 12 Championship. For while the Cowboys won the battle, the Mountaineers still have the chance to win the war.
“It’s really the only choice you have,” Long said of his team’s mindset. “We can’t do anything about what happened. The week is turning around very quick.”
The shortened timeframe, with the Black Friday showdown, gives the Mountaineers and Sooners less time to prepare and shore up the defensive deficiencies which have plagued both squads. For WVU, there’s also the task of figuring out how to adjust to opposing tactics designed to get Long away from the center of the action.
Over the past month, teams have been using four wide receiver formations, and often three on one side, to force Long out into alignment against the interior slot receiver, or at least shaded to that side in zone coverage. The three receivers are often bunched on the short side of the field (known as an FSL — formation to the sideline) which is where Long, as the will linebacker, has to help in coverage. That gets him out of the box, away from initial run support, and cuts down on his ability to chase down plays or get to the wide side of the field.
OSU used those to great effect last week, and they aren’t the only team to have done so.
“The last five weeks, it’s something I am still getting adjusted to,” Long said of the tactic, which has had some success. “It has been opening up a lot of plays for other teammates to make. We have been trying to adjust to that.”
The temptation might be there to allow Long to freelance a bit more, but he can’t leave a wide receiver uncovered, or permit a big gap in the zone. Opposing offenses (and certainly that of Oklahoma) would be quick to exploit it.
“I just have to play off my teammates, and everyone has to do their job,” Long said, without diving into specifics of how the Mountaineers might counter the tactic. “With me out of the box other people will have to step up.”
Long acknowledges that the task of slowing, let alone stopping, the Oklahoma offense will be the toughest job of the year, but it’s also what players want.
“It’s a great time for us. We are facing a good team, and everybody will have to show up and make plays,” the redshirt junior stated. “On defense, we have had sparks where we have shown we can be great. Last week we made some plays, but we had to put four quarters together in order to win. This week we have no choice. We have to come ready, because it’s not going to be easy.”