The Mountaineer defense has had a great season to date, but has lacked a true test.
The first test comes this week against non- conference rival Maryland. In three games this season, the Terrapins offense, lead by senior quarterback CJ Brown, has put up 1,664 yards of offense and 122 points. What is most impressive about the statistics is the balance, as 787 yards have come on the ground and 877 through the air. In order for the Mountaineers to shut down the Maryland offense, defensive coordinator Keith Patterson says you have to take the run or pass away.
"They are very balanced," said Patterson. "In order to be successful, you have to make them one dimensional."
West Virginia will face another dual threat quarterback this week in CJ Brown. Having faced
Oklahoma in week two, the Mountaineers had an opportunity to play a mobile quarterback in Trevor Knight. Coach Patterson says they are similar, but also notes Brown is on another level.
"They are a pretty good comparison," said Patterson. "Brown is mature though, and that's where he begins to have an edge."
The Terrapins also have incredible talent at wide receiver, led by Stefon Diggs. The sophomore receiver leads the team with 16 receptions for 387 yards and 3 touchdowns. Diggs has been quoted by West Virginia Head Coach Dana Holgorsen as being, "like Tavon Austin."
Stopping the Maryland offense is sure to be a challenge, but the West Virginia defense has been turning in solid performances each week. A big part of the Mountaineers' success on defense has been the emergence of freshman cornerback Daryl Worley and redshirt sophomore linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski. Worley has gained the respect of his coaches and teammates after playing a great game Saturday against Georgia State. Fellow teammate Ishmael Banks has this to say about Worley.
"He's a big kid, big frame," said Banks. "He has that confidence and swagger you need as a defensive back."
Coach Patterson says that Worley has a lot to learn yet, but has a high ceiling.
Nick Kwiatkoski currently leads the team in tackles with 27. His level of play this season has changed, and according to him a big reason why is he preparation off the field.
"I try to get over here [Milan Puskar Center] and watch as much film as I can," said Kwiatkoski. "It's made a big difference."
The game against Maryland this weekend is a big game not only on the field, but off the field as well. Getting a win would be huge for both schools, but pride is also on the line when the two teams clash in Baltimore this weekend. Junior linebacker Jared Barber says even though he not from West Virginia, he knows this game is big for the fans.
"This is a big game for us," said Barber. "We know a lot is on the line, especially for the fans since this is the only rival we have left right now."
The Mountaineer defense looks to continue an impressive start to the season on Saturday afternoon when they face the Terrapins.