West Virginia's workmanlike defense limiting opponents


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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- It is always something with this West Virginia offense.

There has, in all six games -- five of them wins -- been a glaring story with that unit.

In the opener against Liberty, it was the 438-yard output.

In the win against East Carolina, it was an ability to overcome four turnovers.

Then, at Auburn in the lone loss of the season, there was an early 14-0 lead that disintegrated in turnovers.

From there, the Colorado win was a personal showcase for Noel Devine, who ran for 220 yards, and the victory at Syracuse was a marvelous 244-yard performance by quarterback Jarrett Brown. Saturday, the offense had to defeat Marshall using backup quarterback Geno Smith when Brown went down with an early injury.

So, not to be offensive to the offense, but what's the story with the defense?

That is just it -- there really isn't one story to point to and say, "That's the story."

The defense, led by coordinator Jeff Casteel, has been quietly plugging along. While the unit might not play with the flash of its offensive counterparts, it has been getting it done with efficiency and a workmanlike force out of the 3-3-5 look.

The West Virginia defense went into the Marshall game ranked 33rd in Division I-A, yielding 310 yards per game. The defenders gave up 207 against the Thundering Herd and have been particularly stout against the run.

Before hosting its in-state rival, West Virginia was 10th in the country at stopping the run, giving up 84.6 yards per game on the ground. Against Marshall, the Mountaineers bent for just 58 rushing yards.

"Our defensive football team, led by our defensive staff, kept us in the game," West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said following the 24-7 victory against Marshall.

"The coaches have put it in our heads that it is on the defense," said West Virginia cornerback Brandon Hogan, who had five tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception against Marshall. "The offense was kind of starting a little bit slow, so, we had to make plays. We just had to go out and do what we had to do."

And what they have done all year, quietly, has given the much-flashier offense a chance to win games.


NOTES -- Little information was provided on Brown's status yesterday. He sustained what was believed to be a concussion on the fourth play of the game against Marshall. He didn't return, spending the rest of the game watching from the sideline. Stewart said Brown did not practice yesterday and would be evaluated numerous times throughout the week. He is officially listed as day to day. ... During a conference call yesterday, Stewart was shaken about the death of Connecticut starting cornerback Jasper Howard, 20, who was stabbed early yesterday morning on the school's Storrs, Conn. campus. The Huskies play at Morgantown at noon on Saturday. "Our very, very sincere heartfelt condolences by the Mountaineer football staff, team and all of West Virginia's Mountaineer Nation go out to the Connecticut football family and we are absolutely heartbroken and stunned, as the nation is, about this situation," Stewart said. Stewart said West Virginia, Connecticut and the Big East were in the early stages of discussing tributes to Howard at Saturday's game.


Colin Dunlap can be reached at cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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