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WVU Defense Played with Something to Prove

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MORGANTOWN -

West Virginia's offense was supposed to take the field Saturday night and show the crowd just how good it could really be this year.

Last season, in the first year in Dana Holgorsen's new offense, the scoreboard showed the Gold team earning 83 points by the final whistle. Surely, in the second year, and with so many players returning on offense, Geno Smith and company would be just as impressive this season.

Yet, after two quick scores by the offense, the defense absolutely dominated. In fact, the blue team scored 37 of the next 40 points in the game, which is impressive given how difficult it can be for a defense to earn points in the unconventional scoring system that is used for the spring game.

When it was all over, the defense had earned a six-point win over the offense, and that was only after giving up two late scores.

That's not how that was supposed to go. The defense was supposed to be figuring out a way to perform against Big XII offenses and the offense was supposed to move the ball at will.

Well, somebody evidently forgot to tell Joe DeForest's group that. Or, more accurately, maybe they just got tired of hearing about it. The defense played most of the game like they had something to prove.

"Yeah, to show everybody that it's not just an offensive team," said Brodrick Jenkins, who came away with an interception in the game. "Before Coach Holgorsen came in and Pat White and all of them, our defense is what the Mountaineers were about, so we're just trying to get that back."

A good spring game doesn't mean that people will be ready to anoint the 2012 WVU football team as a defensive team, but it's certainly encouraging to see the defense slow down an offense that is expected to be among the best in the country this year.

After those two quick scores, the defense provided numerous stops, four turnovers, and a couple of huge hits that got a reaction from the crowd.

"We came out with a lot of energy today," Jenkins said, "so I think that what we proved is that we can be physical and that us getting to the ball is our main focal point."

Will Clarke also caught a rare interception today, grabbing a short Paul Millard pass around midfield and trying to turn up field. He, too, was happy to see the way he and his teammates performed today, but realizes that it was a practice, and maybe not the best measure on how good the offense and defense are for this team.

"I really can't tell because the one defense went against the two offense," Clarke said, "so I would say in some part, but in really an actual game situation, we'd probably be able to judge it more than we can tonight."

That doesn't mean that he can't find some joy in having the type of night that he and his teammates had on Saturday, though. After the way the score ended up last year, it almost seemed like a foregone conclusion that the offense would get the win tonight, as well. The defense doesn't get a win in this game all that often.

"It's definitely exciting," Clarke said. "Since I've been here, it's the first time it's ever happened, so I think it's a good thing."

Jenkins was a little less reserved in what he thought about Saturday's performance. Maybe it's all the talk that they've heard about the offense this spring. Maybe it's the four turnovers that the Mountaineers forced during the game, something that Jenkins said they hope to do all year long. More than likely, it's seeing the defense have a higher number of points at the end of the day than the offense.

Whatever it was, Saturday night really excited Jenkins, and he was more than ready to prove that this defense can be much better than people have been expecting.

"It's exciting," he said. "I'm not taking anything away from Geno, or Sted (Bailey), or Tavon (Austin), because they've earned what they've done, but I just feel like Mountaineer nation needs to know that the defense is behind them, too. We're trying to get them the ball."

With four full months until the first game, there will be plenty of time for people to break down this team and likely go back to the opinion that the offense will carry it. That could end up being true, but the defense showed on Saturday night that it will be more than ready to prove itself.

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