WVU Defense Back to Basics - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Defense Back to Basics

Michael Ploger, MORGANTOWN -

Two straight losses and a bye week has the Mountaineers defense getting back to the basics.

After being outscored by Texas Tech and Kansas State by a combined total of 104-28, it was clear something had to be done to keep opponents from scoring.

Instead of changing defensive schemes, or coaches, or players on the field, West Virginia took their days off to re-establish something that is worked on in the very first week of practice. 

"All the way back to the very basics," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Keith Patterson.  "Get the defensive call, get in a stance, get lined up and go through a progression.  Don't be thinking when the ball is snapped.  We just went back to the base fundamentals, square one.  Get off blocks and tackle, and then play with effort and passion."

The Mountaineers defense has seen criticism since the very first game of the season, but not without reason.  The unit is currently ranked 118 out of 124 FBS schools in scoring defense.  West Virginia allows just under 40 points a game to their opponents.

The offense is one ranked in the top ten in the nation in several categories, but perhaps the motto of "defense wins championships" is still holding strong.

The Alabama Crimson Tide rank first nationally in defensive scoring, allowing all of eight points to their opponents each week.  Notre Dame is third at just under 10, and LSU is ninth nationally.  All of these teams are in the top five teams in the most recent BCS Rankings.

At the beginning of the year, Geno Smith and the offense looked as if they could carry the team to victory each week.  But since they have been stopped, the defense was left sitting on their heels.

"The scheme is really not too tough to pick up," says linebacker Doug Rigg.  "I think it's just the fact of communication with everybody on the defense on the field at the same time.  Teams in the Big 12 move so fast that communicating with everybody at the same time is so much harder than the Big East since they weren't moving as fast as they do now."

There's no doubt the speed of the game picked up between conferences.  TCU comes to Morgantown this Saturday, and they actually play a slightly slower paced offense than what WVU has seen over the past few games.

The Horned Frogs are working with a redshirt freshman quarterback in Trevone Boykin.  He suffered a knee injury last weekend against Oklahoma State, but is expected to start.

Boykin sports a 1-3 record since Casey Pachall was suspended indefinitely and left for rehab.  His numbers include a 61% completion rating, 13 touchdowns (11 passing, two rushing), and six interceptions.

As with any young starting quarterback, there are flaws in his craft.

"When people start putting pressure on him, you see deflected balls at the line of scrimmage," says Patterson about Boykin making mistakes.  "If we can get to him early and try to impact him, he's been forced into some turnovers, it's going to be a key to the game this week.

It seems as if it's now or never for the defense to step up and let the offense know they can be relied upon.  There is just five games remaining in the season and no more bye weeks to give the players a rest.

From here until the Kansas game on December first, there is no time to let up if this team wants to contend in the Big 12, or reach a quality bowl game.

"In the beginning it was really fun of course when you see you're beating teams really bad," says Rigg.  "But then when you start struggling it starts becoming more of a 'hey if we don't win this is what people are going to say about us.'  So I think we just need to get back to playing, having fun, and playing for each other rather than please everybody else."

The last time a WVU football team lost three straight games was in 2004.  Holgorsen and company will attempt to keep that statistic at standstill starting this Saturday at 3 p.m..

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