Kyzir White Leads Solid Defense, But What Might Have Been For Mountaineers

What Might Have Been Still On Minds Of Mountaineers

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Kyzir White had two interceptions – and even more regrets after a stellar personal performance against East Carolina.

“We gotta get better. Lot of dumb mistakes,” White said. “Third down, we have to get off the field. It’s a work in progress. We will get better. But the penalties. It’s football so you will give up plays, but sometimes I felt were giving them first downs.”

True enough. West Virginia’s defense allowed a second 400-yard offensive performance, this time giving up 470 yards to an ECU offense that has struggled with turnovers. But after allowing 31 points in the opening loss to Virginia Tech, and not forcing a turnover in that game, the 56-20 final and the pair of picks by White should have put a bit of a sheen on the defense – especially considering the interceptions were the first of White’s career. And yet there was a tendency to look back at what might have been.

“We definitely needed this one because Sunday night we felt like we let the game slip away from us,” White said. “We were dominating (Virginia Tech). At one point we had six straight three-and-outs. We were dominating and we kinda let off the gas a little bit and we didn’t come out with a ‘W.’ That’s been hurting us all week, so we were ready to get out here and get a win under our belt.”

There would be no such ease of the pedal in this one. The Mountaineers limited ECU to just three meaningful points, and built a 49-3 lead before aspects of human nature took over, and the reserves began to give up plays. The Pirates put up 17 second-half points, and were able to convert seven of 17 third downs overall. That’s a decent number, but no where near as successful as the 80 percent stoppage rate the defense managed against Virginia Tech.

It left a sort of middling feel, even as White finished with two interceptions, a pass break-up, and a quarterback hurry to go with five tackles. The senior was all over the field, and flashed his instincts and ability on an interception early in the second quarter. With ECU quarterback Thomas Sirk looking to the sideline, White raced in from his safety position into the flats, where a back was waiting as Sirk rolled.

The pass was late, and Sirk never saw White coming as the senior snatched the ball before falling out of bounds. It snapped a span of 14 career games played at WVU without an interception.

“Earlier in the week, there was that same exact play in practice and I didn’t get out quick enough,” White said. “Coach (Matt) Caponi said if I see a sprint out, go to the flats real fast and that’s what I did and I was able to come up with an interception. Everything I saw out there we saw on film.”

The interception was sandwiched around a series in which the Mountaineers scored two touchdowns in five plays, including a 52-yard score to Marcus Simms. That swung all semblance of momentum to West Virginia, which led 35-3 and had effectively ended any idea of competition. White later snagged another errant pass, this time when Sirk overthrew a receiver along the sideline. The last Mountaineer to intercept two passes in a game was – you guessed it – Rasul Douglas against Kansas last season, and only 10 players in school history have ever had more than two picks in a game.

It brought forth the question: Where do White’s hands rank alongside brothers Kevin and Ka’Raun? Kevin is an NFL wideout with the Chicago Bears, while Ka’Raun is a current Mountaineer receiver.

“I know it ain’t me,” Kyzir said. “We always compete. They have been getting on me because last year I had a couple opportunities to make interceptions and I didn’t make them. This year, I wanted to focus on my hands and catch jugs or tennis balls everyday after offseason workouts just so it can pay off this season. I am pretty confident, but I still have things I need to work on. I am not satisfied at all.”

Head coach Dana Holgorsen noted that White was on defense because he hadn’t snagged those passes in the past.

“Really good,” Holgorsen said. “He’s a man amongst boys out there. He intercepted a pass in practice and I didn’t think he could catch. The one White brother who is on defense is on defense because he can’t catch. He laughed and he had two good picks tonight. He’s a good player.”