Not Rehashing Issues Will Be Of Prime Importance Moving Forward
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Being forgetful could be quite beneficial for West Virginia’s secondary.
Through three games the Mountaineers have held foes to an average of 22 points, allowing just eight total touchdowns over 12 quarters played. They’ve dominated series, quarters and whole halves.
But when those rare scores have come, they’ve come on big plays. There was Cam Phillips’ 32-yard touchdown catch on a busted coverage by Elijah Battle in the opener against Virginia Tech, and the 46-yard quarterback keeper by Josh Jackson that led to the game-winning score when the majority of the back eight bit on the fake and left a wide open vertical seam.
East Carolina hit a 95-yard scoring pass on Corey Winfield when the veteran was beaten over the top by wideout Trevon Brown on the outside. Winfield also gave up a 36-yarder when he flailed inside and allowed a ball to fall into the arms of a receiver right along the sideline. And this week Delaware State connected on an 81-yard catch-and-run via a wheel route that tied the game at 7-7 early on.
The majority of them aren’t horrendous on their own. But collectively, they show a defense that could be prone to give up the big play. As coordinator Tony Gibson pointed out after the opener, WVU played well on 69 snaps. But two busts marginalized what was a very stout defensive effort. ECU’s solid passing attack didn’t move the ball much, but when the Pirates did, it was by exploiting the corners for major gains. Even Delaware State poked and prodded enough to hit a couple solid shots.
It seems nit-picky now, but those plays allowed to the likes of Virginia Tech and ECU – and yes, even DSU – will become far more commonplace with Big 12 play underway unless the back end can be shored up. That started this week with the move of Kenny Robinson to corner opposite Mike Daniels. Barring injury, those will be the two starters against Kansas. But additional questions arose with the injury to Toyous Avery, which lessened depth and forced Marvin Gross into a starting role.
Gross took a series to adjust, and had the bust on the wheel route. With Robinson seemingly a permanent fixture, and Derrek Pitts seeing increased time at bandit as well, WVU will at times deploy two true freshmen in the defensive backfield. There will be a learning curve. Until then, a short memory will serve well.
“Let them know to stay the course,” spur safety Kyzir White said of his advice. “Things are going to happen, just stay the course. Keep doing your job and everything will play out how it is supposed to. It’s football. You just have to regroup and then get out there in the next couple series and try to dominate.”
White, a senior, played alongside Robinson and Pitts or Gross, who had shifted to a new slot, at times. It didn’t necessarily create pressure on White to try and do more than he’s assigned – that’s the last thing one wants – but the line-up is likely to create additional opportunities for foes.
“You have to work your technique and also be relaxed and composed,” White said. “It was handled pretty well. Whenever you have a position change, it’s difficult. There were some mistakes, but that will happen with anyone. It was different, but I was glad (Gross) was out there with me because we never got to play with each other much.”
The challenges might seem to be minimal, with Big 12 play starting at Kansas. But the Jayhawks can throw it, let by quarterback Peyton Bender, who has thrown for 1,030 yards – the ninth-most in the NCAA. That’s three more yards, by the way, than WVU quarterback Will Grier. KU has a solid passing game, and it’ll challenge the Mountaineers in that category.
“It was very important,” White said, “to get back on track and get this thing moving forward.”
Now we’ll see if it can continue.