Gibson, Mountaineers Take To The Practice Field In Texas
FRISCO, Texas – The last time West Virginia’s defense took the field for a game, it gave up 646 yards and 59 points in the regular season finale loss to Oklahoma.
Now the Sooner offense is historically good, and that attack has led OU to a spot in the upcoming College Football Playoffs for a reason. But still WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson was distraught over his unit’s performance.
The Mountaineers – offensive, defense and special teams – will have a chance to leave a more favorable impressive on the 2017 season when it faces Utah in the Heart of Dallas Bowl Tuesday afternoon.
West Virginia arrived in Texas Thursday, and it held a practice session at the Ford Center at the Star on Friday.
WVU installed much of its game plan during practices back in Morgantown the past couple of weeks. The workouts in at the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility in Frisco will be an attempt to polish that bowl strategy.
“Right now, just fine-tuning the game plan,” explained Gibson from indoor comfort of the Ford Center while the rest of northern Texas was cold and rainy. “That is our biggest key right now just to get these guys going. We’re taking full-speed reps, making it short, sweet and just making sure we are all on the same page.”
Gibson’s defense having to prepare for two different style of quarterbacks. Tyler Huntley is the Utes’ regular starter. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound sophomore is a duel-threat QB who has run for 480 yards and passed for another 2,246. But he missed three games this season because of injury, including Utah’s regular season finale against Colorado, and Huntley’s status for Tuesday bowl is still a well-guarded secret in the Utes’ camp.
If Huntley is unable to go, Utah is fortunate to have an experienced backup it can turn to in Troy Williams, a 6-foot-2, 20-pound senior. Williams is more of a pocket passer than Huntley. He averaged 116 yards through the air in the seven games he’ played this season, while running for just 75.
“Yeah, we are still going to prepare for both and be ready,” Gibson explained of the two Utah QBs. “Huntley is more of a runner, and Williams is more of a thrower. We will do a good mixture the next couple of days.
“We’re going in thinking Huntley is going to be the guy. That’s our mindset, but we will see when the ball kicks.”
WVU last played on Nov. 25, so it will be just over a month between that regular season finale at Oklahoma and the bowl game against Utah. Gibson has tried to keep his defense’s tackling sharp by going through live contact drills in Morgantown and there will be a couple more in Texas this week leading up to Tueday’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.
“It’s always a concern in a bowl game when you have this long of a layoff,” Gibson said when asked about his unit’s tackling. “The thing that we have done a good job of, though, is we have had them in pads every day and tried to get a tackling circuit in and tried to go live on your feet against the offense to get the speed of the game. We will continue to do that again today, tomorrow and get ready.”