WVU fields consistently stellar defense
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s defense didn’t need extra motivation Saturday against Cincinnati. Two consecutive losses to Big East foes were enough.
Yet, Bearcats leading receiver D.J. Woods gave the Mountaineers that little extra push during WVU’s 37-10 win over Cincinnati.
“‘When he came out on the field, he said, ‘This is my field, this is my house,’ ” cornerback Keith Tandy said. “That gave a little fire to our defense.”
Woods probably regrets that now.
In the game, West Virginia’s defense held Cincinnati’s powerful offense — led by quarterback Zach Collaros — to 281 total yards and five turnovers. It was the first time in Collaros’ 12 starts that he has not thrown a touchdown pass. Cincinnati had at least one touchdown pass in 30 straight games before facing WVU.
Heading into the game, Cincinnati’s offense was ranked No. 2 in the Big East in scoring offense. Now, it’s ranked No. 6.
But, that’s nothing new for the Mountaineers. They’ve had one of the best statistical defenses in the country all season.
“We played against one of the best defenses in the country, and deservedly so,” Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said. “They really bring it at you.”
WVU is the only team in the nation that hasn’t given up more than 21 points in any game this season. WVU has the fourth-best total defense in the country following the win at Cincinnati. It also has the third-best scoring defense. Only TCU, Ohio State and Boise State can claim to have better defenses in those categories.
“I credit not only our players, but our coaches,” Stewart said. “To hold people down like we’re doing is a real tribute to the players, to the coaches and to the manner in which we play football here.”
While the defense has been consistently stingy this season, the Mountaineers’ offense has not held its weight at times. In WVU’s three losses, the offense averaged fewer than 14 points per game.
When the Mountaineers score more than 20 points, though, West Virginia is 6-0.
That’s exactly what the WVU offense did against Cincinnati. It scored four first-half touchdowns and allowed the defense to attack more and force turnovers.
“A big part of our success (Saturday) was causing a few turnovers,” defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. “There’s going to be situations that when those things happen, your success is really going to go through the roof, and that’s what happened today.”
WVU will look for overall consistency for the first time on the road this season against Louisville this Saturday.
Instead of facing a potent passing offense like it did with Cincinnati, the WVU defense will be up against a strong rushing attack from the Cardinals.
“This is going to be a challenge for us,” first-year Louisville coach Charlie Strong said.
Notes: West Virginia sophomore quarterback Geno Smith was named the Big East’s Offensive Player of the Week after completing 15 of 25 passes for 174 yards and four TDs against Cincinnati. … Strong said he is unsure whether starting quarterback Adam Froman would play. If he doesn’t play, Justin Burke will start for Louisville.