West Virginia Notebook: Tandy surprising key to defense
Share with others:
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Much has been made about the contribution of West Virginia's defense to the team's solid start, a defense that is yielding a Big East Conference low 245.8 yards per game as the No. 20 Mountaineers (5-1, 1-0) are set to welcome Syracuse (4-2, 1-1) at noon Saturday.
There were the known forces coming into the season -- senior nose tackle Chris Neild, senior linebacker J.T. Thomas and two defensive backs, junior safety Robert Sands and senior cornerback Brandon Hogan.
But one could make a case that the most surprising, and pivotal, player has been junior corner Keith Tandy.
Tandy led the Mountaineers with 10 tackles in their victory against South Florida last week, made a key interception against the Bulls and is the reigning Big East Conference defensive player of the week.
"He is improving," West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said of Tandy. "The great thing is how he has come along as a savvy ballplayer. ... What I think he is doing, he is in position, he is just like a center fielder or a shortstop; he is always in position near the ball.
"It is practice. It is how he works every day in practice."
Tandy was vilified by many fans after a terrible outing last season against South Florida. He was beaten badly on two deep balls in that loss, but has done a bit of everything for the Mountaineers this season.
He is a Big East co-leader in passes defended with six, shares the conference's interception lead with four and, during the UNLV game in Week 5, became the first West Virginia player in two seasons to record two interceptions in the same game.
Seemingly every coach in the Big East Conference has commented on the injury sustained by Rutgers junior defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, who remains paralyzed (from the neck down) following a tackle he made on a kickoff Saturday against Army.
"My heart goes out to Greg Schiano and the entire Rutgers family," Stewart said. "We are thinking about Eric and we are hoping for the best."
Stewart has not seen replays of the hit.
"I did not see Eric's play, so I cannot comment on Eric's play, I don't want to watch Eric's play," Stewart said, becoming a bit emotional.
"I have heard from those who have watched it, apparently the head was down ... Eric tried to do the very best he could do."
During his Tuesday news conference, Stewart was asked if the risk of a catastrophic injury outweighs the reward when one suits up to play in a college football game?
"Football is a great, great game," Stewart said. "In my opinion, it is America's game. Some baseball fans would disagree. It is a game of bodies moving and masses hitting, and that's the problem. These young people are getting so large, so strong, so physical, and the key word here is explosive. ... It has become a game that has become, maybe, a little too physical."
Gregg Pugnetti, a fifth-year senior punter from Fairfax, Va., was recently awarded a scholarship by the West Virginia staff. Pugnetti has been with the program since 2006 but did not see any game action until this season. He was mired behind Pat McAfee and Scott Kozlowski the first four years of his career. This year, Pugnetti has punted 33 times for a 41.48 average.
First Published October 20, 2010 12:00 am