WVU coaches grasping tackling problems

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No. 9 West Virginia will use its off week to improve on the defensive side of the ball, coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday.

The Mountaineers defense was on the field for 101 plays Saturday against Marshall, and gave up 545 yards, in part because of an inability to get off the field on third down.

Marshall converted 9 of 19 third downs, a statistic that will have to improve as the team heads deeper into the schedule.

"Defensively we've got to tackle better, we've got to be better on third down," Holgorsen said. "If you tackle better on third down you're probably getting off the field, which reduces the snaps, which reduces the yards."

West Virginia is off until Sept. 15, when the team will face James Madison, a Division I-AA team, at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

There is time to improve the basics, like tackling, said Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson, co-defensive coordinators.

"No doubt," Patterson said. "You're trying to protect your team, especially in fall camp. Even though we tackle and do some live situations, it's almost like you have to play to become a great tackling team anymore. We'll become a better tackling team."

"We just missed too many tackles, and we had some alignment issues with our linebackers lined up a yard more outside than they [should have been]," DeForest said. "So it is just being disciplined on our alignments and our eyes.

"They say you make your biggest improvement from game one to game two, and we have two weeks to do that."

If any changes are made on the depth chart for defense, they're likely to happen this week.

"[Tuesday] and [today] are going to be pretty physical," Holgorsen said. "We're going to put the ball down. A lot could transpire during the next two days."

Up in the polls

West Virginia moved up to No. 9 in the AP Top 25 poll and to No. 8 in the USA Today coaches poll after its 69-34 win against Marshall.

The win also secured quarterback Geno Smith and linebacker Isaiah Bruce their first Big 12 player of the week honors -- Smith for offense and Bruce for defense.

Smith went 32 of 36 for 323 yards and rushed for another 65 yards. Bruce had a game-high 16 tackles in his first career start and returned a fumble for a touchdown.

Under center

Geno Smith usually operates out of the shotgun but lined up under center several times against Marshall.

"Looking back on last year it would've probably been beneficial to us to [play under center] a little more than we did," Holgorsen said. "We worked hard on it in the offseason. It gives Geno the ability to do a QB sneak, should help our short yardage game."

Recruiting time

The coaching staff will use Friday and Saturday to get out on the road recruiting. Holgorsen plans to head to Houston to watch his nephew, a quarterback, play.

Hit of the game

Holgorsen said he gives Andrew Buie -- a 5-foot-9, 188 pound running back -- the block of the game against Marshall.

Buie leveled a Marshall linebacker in pursuit of a scrambling Smith in the third quarter.

Holgorsen had the media room laughing when ended his weekly news conference with this:

"Buie's was slightly better than K.J. Dillon's [which] happened right in front of me," said Holgorsen. "I got really, really excited when I saw that. Even showed emotion, it was awesome. The ironic thing about it, it was the same defender. That [stinks], man. Poor kid."

wvusports

Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1959 and Twitter @JennMenendez.


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