Defense dominant for WVU in victory over Louisville
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — West Virginia has relied on its defense this season, and Saturday’s game against Louisville was no exception.
The Mountaineers held the Big East’s best rushing offense to just 26 yards in a 17-10 victory.
“When the offense was struggling, we knew we had to step it up and hold it down. That’s what we did,” said defensive end Bruce Irvin, who had two sacks. “We know we have one of the best defenses in the nation.”
West Virginia (7-3, 3-2) remained in contention for the Big East title and a BCS bowl bid. Yesterday’s results — including Pitt’s 17-10 victory at South Florida — make Friday’s Backyard Brawl even more important. If Pitt (6-4, 4-1) wins its final two games, it will clinch the conference title. Any loss for the Mountaineers, who close the season vs. Rutgers, would eliminate them from contention.
With five minutes to go and West Virginia up by seven, Louisville (5-6, 2-4) went for it on fourth-and-6 at the West Virginia 46-yard line despite having three timeouts. Quarterback Justin Burke appeared to find Josh Chichester, but the receiver dropped the pass, and the Mountaineers took possession.
Running backs Shawne Alston and Ryan Clarke ran the clock under three minutes. Kicker Tyler Bitancurt attempted a 41-yard field goal to seal the victory, but Chichester blocked it.
A play later, Burke attempted to find tight end Cameron Graham, but the ball was tipped by West Virginia safety Sidney Glover, and cornerback Keith Tandy grabbed it for his sixth interception of the season.
“(Tandy) made a good play on it,” said Burke, who finished 12 of 24 for 145 yards. “They are a good defense. We knew that coming in, and it was a challenge for us.”
Louisville didn’t score an offensive touchdown and finished with just 171 yards. Louisville came into the game averaging 192 rushing yards behind the nation’s fifth-leading rusher, Bilal Powell. He finished with four carries for 0 yards. The team’s leading rusher was punter Chris Philpott, who had one carry for 21 yards on a fake in the second quarter.
“Our kids did a heck of a job,” West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence, and they’ve been able to maintain their focus.”
The Cardinals’ touchdown came in the second quarter, when defensive end Rodney Gnat forced a fumble when he hit the ball out of quarterback Geno Smith’s hands as he went to attempt a pass. The ball rolled into the end zone, and linebacker Daniel Brown jumped on it to put Louisville up, 10-7.
West Virginia scored on a 2-yard run by running back Noel Devine in the first quarter. In the second, fullback Ryan Clarke scored on a 2-yard run of his own to put the Mountaineers up, 14-10.
Kicker Tyler Bitancurt added a 43-yard field goal in the third quarter. West Virginia finished with 261 yards.
“For the offensive enthusiast, that game probably wasn’t what you came to see,” coach Bill Stewart said. “But, this is a big win for West Virginia.”