Patterson Primed to Get WVU Defense Back on Track - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Patterson Primed to Get WVU Defense Back on Track


Seventy-three points. That statistic right there can go quite a long way in erasing all of the positives West Virginia's defense built up in five weeks of football.

Mountaineers defensive coordinator Keith Patterson joined The Dana Holgorsen Show while the team was on its bye week to discuss the first half of the season and what lies ahead for his defense after being dismantled on the road at Baylor.

"I thought we took two steps back," Patterson said of the 73-42 loss in Waco. "It's just one of those things that kind of snowballed on us, but if you look at the overall first six games, I'm pleased with the progress we've made. You regret taking those two steps back, but now we've got to hit the reset button."

The bye comes at a terrific time for the Mountaineers as they can reset for the second half of a season that features all Big 12 matchups. The games are winnable, but WVU must play its best brand of football to avoid the equally likely result of losing to the teams left on the schedule.

If West Virginia can hang its hat on anything at this point, it is the improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Such a vast difference from 2012 to 2013 is evident, with the lone exception clearly being the poor showing against a Bears offense that looked unstoppable.

"Our kids have played with great attitudes, they've played with a great amount of emotion and passion," said Patterson. "It's almost like we kind of hit the wall last week. To me, that's probably the biggest difference is the way they're playing with great effort, they're playing well as a unit together."

Patterson has been instrumental in guiding the turnaround from the moment the 7-6 season came to an end. After the week five victory over then-No. 11 Oklahoma State, he was honored as the National Coordinator of the Week by Athlon Sports. He said he hadn't known he received the accolade until he noticed a post about it on a friend's Facebook profile.

Despite the individual recognition, Patterson spreads the credit to those around him.

"I've always said this: surround yourself with people who will bring out the best in you instead of accepting the worst and they'll make you better," said Patterson. "I haven't thought about it other than the fact that it's an honor. To me, that represents everything that we try to accomplish with our defensive unit."

There are plenty of things he's trying to accomplish, too. Sure, the wins count the most, but Patterson has a white board that he displays all season long with the defense's goals for each game. They're always the same and the players speak about them as though they are all that matter on Saturday.

The goals range from rushing and passing yards yielded to points allowed and tackles for loss. At the end of the columns is the most important one: did we win?

In five games, the Mountaineers defense has accomplished just about 35 percent of its goals. That isn't to say they are underperforming so much as to show that they are striving for some really outstanding showings.

"They're very important and they are very lofty," Patterson admitted. "I'm not going to lower the standard because of the nature of the game. We played 19 series against Oklahoma State. Nineteen. The average series in college football is 13, so the numbers, they're going to be inflated because of the number of series that you play today in college football. It's just what it is. But I'm not going to lower the standards from what I think it takes to be a great defense."

Patterson brings that sort of attitude to work everyday, though. He strives for perfection and he tries to let his own mindset trickle down to all of the coaches he works with and the players they teach.

He has to do that when he's dealing with a lot of college players who may have thought they had arrived when they went through the recruiting process, only to find out that the work had really just begun.

"They show up and everybody's best high school player is here and it's hard," said Patterson. "They look around and they go, ‘Wow, everyone's as good or better than myself.' Some kids handle it and some kids can't handle it. The ones who can't, you try to motivate them and build them up and make them better."

Senior safety Darwin Cook described his defensive coordinator as being a combination of a coach, a teacher and a motivational speaker. In his job, Patterson can be all three and more.

"I think that's a pretty fair assessment. Maybe psychologist," Patterson added to the list. "I used to be a biology teacher when I was a high school coach. I do a lot of public speaking – used to. I think that's what coaching is, motivating and inspiring people to become better than what they really maybe are."

Part of making his players better than they are is telling them things they may rather not hear. Patterson brings them down to earth, breaks them down to build them up and turn them into better players and better people.

"I say sure, I have an open door policy as long as you're willing to hear something you may not want to hear," said Patterson. "It seems like it's always those kids that come into my office and maybe I'm just brutally honest with them and I kind of hit them right between the eyes and it seems like those are the kids over the years that stay in touch with me the most."

Patterson is making his mark for the Mountaineers' defense this season, but with the adversity it is facing now, he has his biggest task ahead. That side of the ball must get back on track against yet another high-scoring offense in Texas Tech on Saturday. 

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