Ezekiel Rose Entertains In Multiple Ways For WVU
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Even if he weren’t a productive player, West Virginia defensive end Ezekiel Rose would be a delight. The junior college transfer is unfailingly upbeat, enthusiastic and just plain funny. As such, he’s one of the best interviews on the 2017 Mountaineer football team.
What completes the package, though, is his ever-improving play on the field. He is West Virginia’s sacks leader with 4.5, even though he played only situationally until last week, and is now becoming an all-around threat up front. He continued his steady arc of improvement in WVU’s 28-23 win over Kansas State, recording three tackles and a sack and forcing a fumble.
“We talk about everybody pounding the rock — keep getting better,” he said of the reasons for his improvement, as well as that of the defensive line as a whole, which has weathered several absences over the course of the season. “It’s been intensity. We’ve been in practice padded up every day. Everybody has been getting mentally tougher.”
The Mountaineers were still shorthanded in this game, as both Jalen Harvey and Jeffery Pooler were not in evidence, but did get back Adam Shuler, who sat out last week’s win over Iowa State.
“Getting Shuler back was big,” Rose said. “That let me get my wind back and play more on special teams.”
None of that covers Rose’s biggest play. With just seconds to go in the first half, he slid off a K-State block and picked off a screen pass intended for the Wildcats’ Winston Dimel. That set up a final-play touchdown pass from Will Grier to Ka’Raun White — a score that was WVU’s last on the day, and proved to be the game winner.
“Through the whole week our coaches were telling us to get our hands up; he throws it low,” Rose said. “I was about to block it but it was coming so slow so I grabbed it [with this hand] and then pinned it. I tried to run but my feet weren’t on the ground, so that didn’t work. It just happened that he wanted to throw a screen right in front of us so ‘Thank you!’ Early Christmas present.”
Rose has already shown his excellent hands on special teams, where he cleanly fielded a short kickoff and returned it for 23 yards earlier in the year. That doesn’t presage a position switch (“I’m hoping they’ll put in a package for me to go to tight end,” he joked) but it again showed off his ability to make big plays — something that has been spreading among his mates up front. SHuler had a sack, and the line was credited with 11 tackles overall.
“I think up front again we played phenomenal,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibson confirmed.
“It’s a really good feeling,” Rose said of the line’s emergence. “To know the defense stepped up and helped the offense out, that’s a really good feeling.”
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Rose, like several of his defensive teammates, joined in the in the kidding directed at linebacker Dylan Tonkery. For the second week in a row,
“Tonk” dropped an interception that hit him squarely in the hands. Asked if he was ready to give the redshirt freshman some pass-catching lessons, Rose responded with his typical wit.
“No, everybody can’t have it like I’ve got it,” he said with a big smile and laugh.