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WVU unleashes sack-happy defense

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By Tony Dobies
Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien briefly forgot where he was Saturday.

With 30 seconds left in the first half against West Virginia, O'Brien was clocked by Mountaineers defensive end Bruce Irvin. The Terrapins' quarterback was so rattled he was unable to run another play during the final 20 seconds of the half.

"I was like, 'If he doesn't throw it, he's crazy,' " Irvin said. "It was like a dream come true."

It was Irvin's first career sack. He would have two more in the Mountaineers' 31-17 victory.

It was a coming-out party for West Virginia's speed-rushing specialist, who was named the Big East Conference's Defensive Player of the Week.

"That took a lot of weight off his shoulders. He was really waiting to get that sack," starting nose tackle Chris Neild said. "He's been working at it, especially during practice. He did a real good job."

It was the ninth time in school history that a WVU defensive player has had three or more sacks in a game.

Mountaineers fans are starting to choose Irvin as one of their favorite players. After his sacks, the crowd chanted, "Bruce!"

"It sounds like boo, but I know they're saying Bruce," he said. "It felt good to give people what they wanted to see."

The Mountaineers went into Saturday's game without a sack. That put them tied for last place in the country with three other teams.

After the defense's eight-sack performance against Maryland, WVU is in the top 30 in the nation in sacks per game. With that effort, the Mountaineers are tied with five other teams for the most sacks in a single game this season.

"It was frustrating, but at the same time if we can't get back there then we can't get back there," said defensive tackle Scooter Berry, who had two sacks against Maryland. "We felt like we had to prove ourselves, because there were a lot of people on our backs for not making any sacks. We just went out there and did our job."

Coach Bill Stewart credited much of the sack success to West Virginia taking an early lead and forcing Maryland into passing situations.

The Mountaineers' veteran defense will try to recapture that success against LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson. The Tigers are giving up an average of one sack per game.

Stewart said WVU's key to piling up sacks will be taking an early lead on its opponents -- something that might be tough in the rough environment of Tiger Stadium.

"They just have to go out there and play as hard as they can. If we can get LSU in a passing mode, maybe we can do the same thing," Stewart said.

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