Defense Bounces Back With Stellar Performance Vs. TCU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Sometimes giving up 41 points can be a good thing.
Especially if you win.
That’s what happened when West Virginia pulled off the Miracle in Austin two weeks ago in beating Texas, 42-41, for the despair of being scored upon so freely carried over to this week’s TCU game.
The Horned Frogs paid the price, nearly getting shut out and certainly getting shut down in a running game that could produce no more than mins seven rushing yards in a 47-10 WVU victory. The only TCU touchdown came after a punt accidentally hit WVU’s Keith Washington and was covered by the Frogs, who negotiated the short field for a TD
“They were motivated all week,” coach Dana Holgorsen said of the defense. “I’ve said this a hundred times, defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has arguably done as good of a job as any defensive coordinator in college football.
“We’ve got high standards for playing good defense here. Last week we probably didn’t play like we could have. As I said on Tuesday, I think our opponent had something to do with that. Texas played well offensively, but we were pretty motivated to come back and play better.
“Obviously, we did.”
This becomes important this week, as WVU has a huge defensive challenge going into Stillwater, Okla., to face Oklahoma State and Mike Gundy’s high-powered offense in a game that is every bit as important to win as the regular-season finale battle with Oklahoma will be.
If the Mountaineers don’t win at Oklahoma State, the Sooners’ visit loses some of its importance.
And if WVU was motivated to play well after the Texas game, they should be doubly motivated to face Oklahoma State.
Last year Oklahoma State came into Morgantown and beat the Mountaineers, 50-39.
That’s right, they hung 50 points on WVU, rushing for 246 yards and passing for 216 behind quarterback Mason Rudolph, who fortunately now wears Pittsburgh Steelers colors.
But this defense is much better than the one that was out there a year ago, built around the special skills of freelancing linebacker David Long and with a pumped-up and improved defensive line.
“As a defense, we know what we are capable of and when we go out there and show it it feels a lot better than going out there and getting 41 put on you,” Long said.
The difference in this defense isn’t personnel. It’s an attitude.
“When you have swag out there, it’s a different level we play at,” Long said. “Getting the lead, we seem to get comfortable. We have to keep ourselves hyped up, enjoying each other while we are making plays.”
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* Long was asked if the pressure is building as each week goes by and WVU climbs the rankings, WVU now No. 7 in both the AP and Coaches. Oklahoma has come in at No. 6.
“A little bit,” he answered. “We know we have a lot in front of us to accomplish. As a football team, we have to be better every week.”
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Tony Gibson on the play that broke the game open … and you won’t guess it.
“The fumble that (backup linebacker) Exree Loe created and recovered,” Gibson said.
WVU had just scored its first touchdown of the game to take a 10-3 lead with 5:09 left in the half when Loe made his play on the ensuing kickoff, giving WVU the ball at the TCU 17, setting up another touchdown and creating the momentum the Mountaineers needed.
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ESPN’s GameDay crew hasn’t been big supporters of the WVU defense, but Long accepts none of it. He says he won’t pay attention to Kirk Herbstreit “unless he lines up at running back or receiver” and as for David Pollack his message is, “go watch film.”
“I won’t let that distract us. That’s just noise,” Long said.