WVU defense on hot seat in Big 12 opener

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West Virginia and Baylor are known to put more than a few points on the scoreboard.

Both run offenses that like to play with tempo.

The Mountaineers' highly anticipated Big 12 opener with the Bears on Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va., is expected to be a shootout.

So what is the trick to winning? The defense has to play with a short memory, said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen on Monday's Big 12 conference call.

"Baylor's got a great offense, and if you think we're just gonna shut 'em down, you're nuts," said Holgorsen. "You've gotta line up, keep playing, no matter what. You have to have the ability to line up and execute your job on the next series. You give up a couple of plays or touchdowns, you've got to get out there and make a few stops."

The Bears have hardly missed a beat since Heisman winner Robert Griffin III moved on to the NFL after the 2011 season.

They average 51.3 points a game, second in the Big 12 only to Oklahoma State's 62.3 points a game.

The Bears (3-0) rank No. 5 in Division I-A in passing offense (361.67 yards per game), scoring offense (51.33 points per game) and rank No. 6 in total offense (568.57).

They line up quickly for senior quarterback Nick Florence and play with tempo that rivals West Virginia's. Holgorsen and Baylor Coach Art Briles spent a year together at Texas Tech in 2000, playing for a Mike Leach-coached team that did the same.

"Anytime you spread the ball around and you try to throw it around and play with some tempo, there's going to be some similarities," said Holgorsen. "With that said, there's probably some differences as well."

Briles said he prefers to avoid expectations about how a game will play out.

"The honest answer is, you don't look at it that way," said Briles. "We don't approach it that way. We just approach it like we've got to go in and do a better job in all three phases of the game."

Regardless of how it plays out, West Virginia's Big 12 debut should make for a well-watched game.

"There's been a lot of excitement of joining the Big 12. It's finally here," he said. "There'll be a lot of eyes on us, but we've had that situation before.

"I've got a lot of experienced kids, got a program that's pretty established, used to winning, used to being in the national spotlight. I don't think we'll allow it to be a distraction."

NOTES -- Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is expected to make the trip to Morgantown for Saturday's game. He will lead the school's homecoming parade at 6:30 p.m. Friday. ... Tavon Austin was named the Big 12 offensive player of the week on Monday after a 13-reception, 179-yard and three-touchdown performance in Saturday's 31-21 win against Maryland. The 13 receptions tied a school record set a week earlier by teammate Stedman Bailey.


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


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