Gibson’s Puppies Have Grown Up For WVU

Gibson’s Puppies Have Grown Up For WVU


Tony Gibson’s puppies have become ‘Dawgs’.

A couple of weeks ago the West Virginia defensive coordinator, who had been sitting squarely on a very warm seat through the season’s early days as he tried to rebuild a defense that lost its heart and soul from a year ago, was talking about how his puppies were becoming the ‘Dawgs’ that he wants them to be.

Now understand, there are dogs and there are ‘Dawgs.’

A dog you put a leash and, if he’s really nasty, you give him a muzzle.

A ‘Dawg’ in Gibsonese is a defensive player you take off the leash and turn loose and the nastier he is, the better. (It’s also an acronym: Defense Always Wins Games)

Gibson now has a nasty defense.

A week ago they allowed Iowa State 20 points and then Saturday, in the cold and rain of Manhattan, Kan., on a foreign field on which they had never won before, they stopped a desperate Kansas State team that is playing for its bowl life and held it to 23 points.

All day they had their backs against the wall, the Wildcats taking over six times in Mountaineer territory, holding possession of the ball for 36 minutes on 17 possessions. They were on the field seemingly forever, yet they responded as you would want them to respond, topped off by a goal line stand that kept K-State out of the end zone from the one-yard line.

Heroes?

You might say unlikely ones.

Defensive lineman Ezekiel Rose had himself an interception that may have changed the game and true freshman safety Kenny Robinson had himself an interception that certianly saved the game.

Rose’s interception came just before halftime after Justin Crawford had fumbled the ball away. The big guy out of East Mississippi Community College sniffed out a screen pass and latched onto it, giving the ball back to WVU.

Leading 21-20 at the time, Will Grier pulled off one of his miracle plays as he threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Ka’Raun White on the last play of the half to give WVU its final seven points of the game.

And then it was Robinson saving the day in the fourth quarter when the Wildcats had driven to the WVU 19 and threatening to take the lead, stepping for his interception.

“Kenny Robinson. that kid has ice water in his veins,” Gibson said.

“Those are situations we were in earlier and couldn’t complete,” said defensive captain Al-Rasheed Benton, the senior middle backer. “To see the strides we made and see the strides young guys like Robinson have made is great.”

“These guys have been locked in,” Gibson said. “They believe in themselves right now. They got a little bit of that swagger back. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing what they are doing right now.”

That is understandable because he had to come so far with them, the nadir coming when Oklahoma State dropped 50 points on them three weeks back.

Last week they were challenged and responded against Iowa State.

“That was the first time we played defense for four quarters like I like to play defense,” Gibson said.

That’s a blitzing, attacking, pulsating defense that actually puts the offense on the defense.

In this one they turned up the heat, 11 tackles for losses, four sacks and, when K-State shut down the WVU offense in the second half and held it scoreless for the second straight week, they took the air out of the Wildcat offense and allowed only 3 points

“Those kids believe,” Gibson said. “Very times did I draw anything on a grease board. I stayed away from them. I didn’t want to put anything on them.”

What was a group of guys who seemed lost early in the season has now become a unit.

“We did a great job of communicating,” Benton said. “The guys up front did a great job of letting the linebackers run free.”

And they make the most of it, David Long with 11 more tackles and Benton with seven.