West Virginia notebook: Defense steps up against high-scoring teams
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen a few weeks ago referred to his offense as “run-first,” which got some attention. He always has been known as a pass-first kind of guy.
Now WVU is playing like a “defense-first” team, which is even more startling considering the Mountaineers’ high-scoring identity and last season’s defensive horror show.
Even though a blown assignment in the secondary in the last two minutes directly led to the Mountaineers losing to then-No. 10 TCU on Saturday, 31-30, it was the defense for most of the preceding 58 minutes that kept WVU in the game.
“I thought our defense played good enough to win,” Holgorsen said.
Facing a pretty fair defense, the WVU offense did not. Not with just two offensive touchdowns (one more than the defense) five turnovers, and minus-2 yards in the fourth quarter when it needed to keep the ball.
WVU played conservatively down the stretch. Why? Holgorsen described quarterback Clint Trickett, who threw two interceptions, as “incredibly uncomfortable” — saying it twice for emphasis — which perhaps was another way of saying he didn’t trust him.
“He was uneasy in the pocket,” Holgorsen said. “He got spooked.”
Also, TCU shut down the running game. No wonder Trickett and the rest of the offense did not speak the media afterward.
“We turned it over five times,” Holgorsen said. “They had something to do with that. Defensively, you can luck into turnovers or force turnovers, and they did a good job of forcing turnovers. That’s no excuse. We need to do a better job of protecting the football and taking care of the football.”
Speaking of forcing turnovers, WVU cornerback Terrell Chestnut did exactly that, stripping the ball from a receiver, picking it up and running 35 yards for a touchdown that provided a 13-point lead in the third quarter.
Remarkably, it was the Mountaineers’ first fumble recovery of the season.
Besides that play, WVU (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) held TCU to fewer than 400 yards for the first time this season — the Frogs were held in check — and prevented them from scoring a single point off three first-half turnovers. Two weeks earlier, the defense was mainly responsible for upsetting then- No. 4 Baylor. In both games, WVU put the squeeze on a high-powered offense that ranked at or near the top of the national statistics.
White on White
Kevin White outplayed Kevin White. Again.
That would be TCU cornerback Kevin White, who was mainly responsible for shutting down WVU receiver Kevin White.
WVU’s Kevin White went 23 yards on a catch and run in the first quarter. After that, with the Frogs often helping with double coverage, he caught two passes for 5 yards in the Mountaineers’ 30-27 overtime win over TCU last season, White caught one pass for 5 yards.
With seven consecutive 100 yard-plus receiving games, WVU’s White has been a different player. Opposing defenses have noticed. In last week’s win over Oklahoma State, he had three catches for 27 yards. That included a 19-yard touchdown in the first quarter. As against TCU, he was quiet thereafter.
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].