WVU’s Pair Of Stills Yielding Excellent Results
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. º The play was a perfect illustration of the way in which brothers Darius and Dante Stills are working together on West Virginia’s defensive front. Although the duo isn’t on the field together for every snap they play – WVU’s good rotation and depth up front are allowing for respectable rest times – when they do get together, something good often results.
So it was in the fourth quarter of the Mountaineers’ 44-27 win over N.C. State. Darius, lined up in his usual nose tackle spot, slanted slightly to his left and engaged two Wolfpack linemen – the center and the right guard. Younger brother Dante, starting out from his defensive tackle spot to Darius’ left, looped around him to head for the center of the line. Darius’ occupation drive was executed to perfection, leaving Dante a clear path to steam head on toward State quarterback Matthew McKay. The result was a crushing hit, a 10-yard sack, and more celebration for Mountaineer fans on the cloudy turned sunny afternoon.
That sort of play has been a big part of West Virginia’s defensive success this year. While that unit has had ups and downs, the line has been a bright spot, using contributions from eight players to build an effective front wall while employing pre-snap movement and lots of twists and stunts, and even some zone blitzes, to produced negative plays. It’s a little more special for the Stills brothers, though, when they team up for a big moment. Thus, it was entirely appropriate that they teamed up again following the N.C. State game for a joint postgame interview.
“It’s indescribable,” said Darius, of the feeling when he sees Dante make a big play. “As an older brother you like to see your younger sibling succeed, and when I see him making plays, I’m like ‘Hey, we’re here now.’ Us together, we’re a dominant force, a dominant duo. We just have to keep it up.”
“It’s different Playing in front of 60,000 fans, it’s a different mentality,” Dante added, trying to put into words the feeling of accomplishment that comes with succeeding with his brother on the field.
That success has been clear, both statistically and in hidden plays, such as Darius’ occupation of two blockers to free up his brother, and his drop into coverage that helped stop an N.C. State screen pass on third down in the Mountaineer red zone. That play held the Pack to a field goal, and preserved West Virginia’s lead in the third quarter.
On the day, the Fairmont, West Virginia, duo combined for six tackles, (four for loss) and two sacks. Those totals have them tied for second in the Big 12 conference in sacks on the year with three each, and in the top four in TFLs. Dante has 5.5 stops behind the line, which has him tied for second while Darius is fourth in the league with five.
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The brothers’ demonstrative play was fueled by an appreciative fanbase, which showed up well and was supportive despite the rough start to the season. That, of course, wasn’t the case across the entire ecosystem following WVU’s loss to Missouri the previous Saturday, as the team got plenty of criticism from the keyboard warriors of social media.
“It made me really mad,” Dante said with emotion. “I feel like you shouldn’t give up on the team right when we lose. I actually put a tweet out. Everybody loses games, even the teams that win national championships.”
The ones that are bash us for losing now are the ones that be praising up when we win… don’t be on our side when we on top. #TrustTheClimb
— Dante Stills (@DanteStills) September 8, 2019
Darius, who is a bit less out front at times, was as open as his younger brother, while emphasizing that this team, still in the infancy of the Neal Brown era, needs that fan support.
“As a football team we thrive off our fanbase. Our fanbase is constantly cheering us on, and we return that same energy,” the junior said. “I wouldn’t say we are rebuilding, but we all started over. You have to get over those stepping stones, and teams are going to struggle. We like the support we get from the fans, but don’t like it when they bash us. But in the long run, they all want us to succeed.”
While West Virginia’s environment in welcoming opposing fans has changed dramatically for the better since entering the Big 12, that doesn’t mean playing in Mountaineer Field is easy. Darius was quick to highlight that benefit of the home crowd and fan support.
“Away teams coming in to play here – it’s dangerous,” said Stills, referring to the reputation WVU’s stadium environment has on opposing players. “I have friends around the nation that come play here and say, ‘You all have definitely the toughest stadium to play in. These fans are hard core. They don’t care if you are a college student.’ I feel like they do have an impact on the game.”