Numbers don't tell entire story for improving West Virginia defense
Desmond Jackson (99) and West Virginia stopped Texas when it mattered most Saturday in Austin, Texas.
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West Virginia's defense still ranks a lowly No. 102 in Division I-A in total defense, and worse, 117th in pass defense.
But in front of a record Texas crowd on Saturday, the much maligned side of the ball came up with two key fourth-quarter stops to do its part in a Mountaineers win.
No man appeared more excited, and perhaps relieved, than Joe DeForest, one of the team's two defensive coordinators.
Exclamation points seemed to hang in the air after each sentence.
"I thought we fought our tails off," said an animated DeForest. "I'm excited about all the things we can do from here. That was a hard fought win. A hard fought win.
"To get away from here with a victory, in Austin? Really the first road test of the year? I mean, wow. Wow. You can ask for [fewer] points, but I'll tell you one thing, it was a battle."
Statistically it was no gem.
The defense allowed six of seven red-zone scores, 5.9 yards per play to the Texas offense, and 404 yards of offense.
But as co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson explained heading into the game, judging defensive success in the Big 12 is a little bit different.
"You've had a game where you play 90, 100 snaps, they're going to have yards. Therefore you do have to change how you measure success," said Patterson.
He listed four key factors: red-zone scoring defense, stopping the run, creating turnovers and trying to create negative yardage plays.
"Those are ways you measure success. If you can get three or four 3-and-outs or 4-and-outs, well, there's six or seven possessions of maybe 13 possessions a game," he said.
Texas ran just 68 plays, and was slowed to 8 of 14 on third down and 1 of 3 on fourth down. The running game was limited to just 135 yards.
That was enough to elicit a teensy bit of praise from head coach Dana Holgorsen on Monday's Big 12 coaches call.
"I thought [the defense] was good. It could've been a little bit better," he said. "They got about 3.5 yards a rush, which is good."
West Virginia's contest against Kansas State on Oct. 20 will start at 7 p.m. at Milan Puskar Stadium and shown on WPGH. Both teams are currently 5-0. The Wildcats travel to Iowa State on Saturday.
Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said on the coaches call that he has never seen the league's offenses operate this efficiently, praising Geno Smith for the season he's put together so far.
"Oh, no, this is about as good as it gets," said Tuberville. "I think he's pretty close to where [Brandon Weeden, former Oklahoma State quarterback] was but in different ways. He's got great touch on the ball, he's got a lot of speed at receiver. He's got the knack of just sitting in the pocket. He'll take a sack.
"He understands there's going to be another play. He's very meticulous with the ball. That's what makes a good quarterback, you have to take what they give you. He's a cool guy in terms of under pressure. I've seen a lot of quarterbacks in my tenure."
Holgorsen said Smith's string of games without throwing an interception is impressive, but it's not a topic they dwell on.
The streak also has to do with the receivers running good routes and protecting the ball, he said.
"Well, you don't talk about it much. That's step number one," said Holgorsen.
"It's a combination of things. You try to come up with the best plays you can, call those plays in proper situations ... this streak has a whole lot more to do with what the system is and how we coach everybody from a technique standpoint as it does with the guy that is throwing it."
Holgorsen said on the same call that his team is handling its new status as the team to beat in the Big 12 by sticking to the old plan of taking it week by week.
"I think they're handling it well based on how we travelled and how we acted in the locker room before the game," said Holgorsen.
"We really played with defensive urgency, really had to drag them off the field in warm-ups. We didn't [substitute] very much because the guys that were out there didn't want to come out of the game. We set a goal at the beginning of the season to win the Big 12. The next challenge is Texas Tech. That's what we talk about."
First Published October 9, 2012 12:00 am