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Texas Presents Challenge, Opportunity for WVU Defense

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MORGANTOWN -

West Virginia's offense has the challenge of maintaining a reputation this weekend in Austin. Its defense is challenged to change one.

Following a game in which his unit gave up 63 points to Baylor, defensive coordinator Joe DeForest says the only thing the Mountaineers can do is learn from what led to such a poor showing.

"They saw the mistakes on film and now we have an opportunity to correct them," says DeForest. "As coaches, our job is to show them the mistakes on film, go out and practice to correct those mistakes to get better for the next week."

Darwin Cook, the junior safety who after that Baylor game said he felt as though his team had lost, believes that another strong test on Saturday against the Texas Longhorns is exactly what WVU needs to get its defense over its recent struggles.

"It's a good time," Cook says of the trip to Austin. "I feel like we needed that. That was a slap in our face, wake-up call to show that we can't just go out there and play. We've got to make plays, you can't just let the coach put you in the right position."

On Tuesday, Texas coach Mack Brown revealed that his second-leading rusher, Malcolm Brown, will not suit up to take on the Mountaineers. While the backfield features other ball carriers like Joe Bergeron and Jonathan Gray who have put up real numbers, the onus of making up for Brown's absence may fall on sophomore quarterback David Ash's arm.

To this point, he has shown himself capable of that task.

With the Longhorns poised to attack with a quarterback whose passer rating is second nationally behind WVU's Geno Smith, the Mountaineers know the big plays they gave up a week ago cannot beat allowed to beat them again.

"I told our guys, offensive coordinators are not going to stop passing the ball because they don't want to hurt your feelings. So we've just got to get over it," says cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts.

The task of keeping the secondary focused and motivated on what lies ahead rather than what transpired a few days ago rests with Roberts and the other defensive coaches.

Any defensive backs coach will tell you that one of the most important traits at the position is a short memory. Now, instead of just moving on to the next play, they have to move on to the next game. That is exactly the message Roberts had for his troops, while implementing a 24-hour rule, which means no more looking back at Baylor tape.

"I said, ‘Look, I didn't go home thinking I was the worst coach in the country and I hope you didn't get home thinking that you were the worst corners in the country because rest assured, there have been some very good cornerbacks who have had some bad days. So move on, let's go beat Texas,'" says Roberts.

Cook now says that he gains confidence from something he saw in the game film. He believes he and his teammates were in the right place at the right time, but simply didn't make the play.

While that says little about the personnel on the field, it at least allows them to continue to have faith in what their coaches are telling them and in how they are game planning for the Longhorns. The scheme is not the concern at this point, but the fundamentals are.

"That does something for our confidence because we know we've just got to make plays when we get there at the right time, in the right spot," says Cook. "We just didn't execute, that's it."

So this week, it has been back to basics for the WVU defense. The sort of drills that may otherwise be relegated to preseason camp reemerge at this time to remind the players that the most important part of the game are the parts only the athletes can control.

"I have a core set of drills that I work on each week and then also, based on how we perform on a Saturday, I will alter some drills for the next week," Roberts explains. "So, we had tackling drills, we had man-to-man drills, we had cover two drills [on Tuesday]. Because it's really the essence of football, you can't really afford to get away from it."

The coaches and players on a defense that gave up 700 total offensive yards a week ago are hoping that the lessons learned will be worth it.

"At the end of the season, we'll be looking back and saying it was a big turning point for us because now we see what can happen when you don't play as well as you'd like or when you don't play up to your standard," says Roberts.

The confidence remains, the excitement to turn a negative reputation in the other direction is fueling a week's worth of practices.

Every Saturday is an opportunity. West Virginia is hoping this Saturday will not simply be another opportunity for an offense to take advantage of the Mountaineer defense.  

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