WVU Defense Building on Success at OU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Defense Building on Success at OU

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MORGANTOWN -

Shortly after the West Virginia University football team walked off the field following its loss at Oklahoma, various players and members of the Mountaineers staff faced the questions that come with letting a road victory slip through their grasp.

Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson made it quite clear that he felt his quarterback had missed several opportunities to hit what he called "wide open" receivers downfield, while that quarterback sat just a few feet away taking his own questions.

Defensively, coordinator Keith Patterson was mostly able to speak about a solid performance, one in which the Mountaineers turned out quite the opposite result as they had a year ago against the Sooners.

Giving up only 16 points, with 10 of them coming after special teams miscues, was representative of how far WVU's defense has come since Patterson dropped the "Co-" from his title. Of course, this wasn't the same OU offense that came to Morgantown in 2012, but Patterson wanted to ensure the Sooners, as well as the rest of the Big 12, that the offense residing in the West Virginia hills this season is nothing like what they saw last year, either.

"Our kids, I knew we were a good defense," Patterson said after Saturday's loss. "I knew we were going to be. I think that we had a good plan, our kids felt comfortable and man, once we got into the flow of the game, I knew we could make it hard on them if we could stop the run."

Ultimately, the defense couldn't keep up the play that had kept the game so close early on, yielding over 300 rushing yards as Oklahoma looked to milk the clock for much of the fourth quarter.

In that first half, though, Patterson gathered his troops along the team bench and essentially told them to remain calm and continue to attack their assignments. He told them that they would "shock" the Sooners, that they already had, by how good they were.

At the time, he never could have guessed that if his defense would create four turnovers, it would still find the Mountaineers in a position to lose the game.

"I told them Sunday that if we'll force four turnovers, we'll win the game," said Patterson. "Didn't happen."

The defensive coordinator does not follow that remark up with something indicating that it's because of the offense that WVU couldn't capitalize on the turnovers, but it's the truth and anyone in the room was well aware. Patterson didn't need to say that the reason the Mountaineers still lost despite causing four turnovers was largely due to four turnovers of their own on the other side of the ball.

He may not have come right out and said it, but the quarterback who guided the offense would.

"They played a heck of a game," junior Paul Millard said of WVU's defense. "Our defense came out there, they got turnovers, they did everything that we obviously want them to do. Most games when the other team scores 16 points, we should win."

The irony is that earlier in the week, Millard said something similar with regards to the William and Mary win. If the opponent is held to 17, which the Tribe were, the Mountaineers should be victorious. It took just a few days to prove him wrong.

West Virginia remained focused on defense throughout, despite losing key players like Isaiah Bruce, K.J. Dillon and Doug Rigg for the entire game and other starters for smaller periods of time due to injury. With back-ups, including a freshman, in the game, Patterson felt his men continued to fight, thinking that the next stop would be the one that the offense took advantage of.

"They had a great spirit the whole time, all the way to the very end," said Patterson. "We just wanted to keep playing hard and they did. We knew it was going to be a four-quarter battle, but I was proud of them. You've got to give it to our kids. They fought and they fought and they fought and they fought."

A year ago, after WVU's first game in the Big 12 against Baylor, senior Darwin Cook said he felt like the team lost despite the win column picking up another tally. The defense was that bad.

Fast forward about 12 months and the first result in the conference this year was a building block. It can propel the defense, not as a moral victory, but simply a place to start. 

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