The Mountaineer defense is searching for answers after having a miserable three game stretch.
In the first five games of the season, it looked as if the defense would put together an impressive campaign. What has transpired in the past three games has been anything but pretty. Quite plainly, it brings back memories of last season in what was one of the worst defensive units in West Virginia history.
It all started on the road against the Baylor Bears. The Bears' shredded the Mountaineer defense into pieces. In total, Baylor was able to gain 872 yards and put up 73 points. Next up, Texas Tech. The explosive Red Raider offense led by quarterback David Webb was held in check most of the day in Morgantown, but the Mountaineers' fell apart in the late stages, and let an 11- point lead slip away. Kliff Kingsbury's ball club ended up with 573 yards of offense and 37 points. The Mountaineer defense was confident that they would right the ship on Saturday at Kansas State, but the woes continued. West Virginia dominated the first half, but fell apart for the second straight week in the fourth quarter. Kansas State would end the afternoon with 448 yards on 64 plays, and 35 points.
One of the key reasons for the defensive nightmare is getting off the field on third down. The Mountaineer defense has been unable to accomplish this task in the past three games, and it has costs them late. According to Cornerback Ishmael Banks, he and his teammates have to do a better job on third down.
"We call it the money down," said Banks. "We gave them the money in the past three games. That can't keep happening; we have to get off the field on third down."
The Mountaineer defense has time to fix the mistakes over the next four games, and according to Defensive Coordinator Keith Patterson, it starts with regaining confidence.
"We have to regain our swagger," said Patterson. "Right now, we aren't playing with confidence. We need to play to win, and have fun."
Regaining that swagger may be harder than it looks. After being among the top 50 defenses in the country, the Mountaineers have slipped to the bottom. Even if it may be tough, playing with confidence could be the answer to help the defensive unit rebound over the next four games. Ishmael Banks says that it starts with making plays.
"We need to go out and make some plays," said Banks. "That's the start of getting our swagger back."
West Virginia will travel to Fort Worth, Tx. this weekend to take on the TCU Horned Frogs. Going into the game, both teams find themselves in unfamiliar territory. The Mountaineers and Horned Frogs both enter at 3-5 overall, and 1-4 in conference. After being in the preseason AP Top 25, TCU has slipped from the national spotlight. For West Virginia, it has been a season full of mystery, both on offense and defense.
Despite having four games left, Saturday is a must win game for both teams. The path to a bowl game keeps getting narrower with each loss. Senior Nose Tackle Shaq Rowell realizes the importance.
"Whoever wins this game is going bowling," said Rowell. "The loser most likely won't."
The Mountaineers will look to get their first road win of the season when they pay a visit to Gary Patterson and TCU.