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So far, defense has been WVU's stabilizing force

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By Josh Sickles
Monday, Sept. 12, 2011

Although West Virginia scored 55 points against Norfolk State, there is no mistaking that the Mountaineers' defense -- at least for now -- is the team's stabilizing force.

"We're more comfortable with our defensive scheme than we are our offensive scheme," coach Dana Holgorsen said after Saturday's win. "We're a little more experienced over there. I'm happy with the way they throw up the wall in the red zone."

West Virginia has yet to allow a touchdown. The defense has yielded just six field goals -- two against Marshall and four vs. Norfolk State -- and allowed just three red zone appearances.

Senior defensive end Bruce Irvin characterized the defense as "bend but don't break." But there is room for improvement. The Mountaineers have not forced a turnover and have just one sack.

"We've got to get off the field, and we've got to create turnovers," Holgorsen said. "We're not doing that consistently right now."

Bombs away

As the West Virginia offense continues to improve, its home run ability is increasing as well.

The Mountaineers on Saturday connected on 11 passes of 15 yards or more, including six that gained 30 or more yards. Three of them were touchdowns.

Eight of the 11 deep passes came in the second half, as the West Virginia offense found its groove and broke the game open.

"We did a good job of adjusting to what the defense was doing," quarterback Geno Smith said. "Our receivers weren't getting off the jam early on, but they fought and got better as the game went along."

Austin recovers

Despite taking a 100-yard kick return for a score against Marshall, junior receiver Tavon Austin was disappointed in his offensive performance, catching just three passes for 32 yards.

Austin rebounded with a six-catch, 82-yard, one-touchdown performance against Norfolk State and improved run blocking on the outside.

"I was definitely performing better than last week," he said.

His highlight play was a short hitch that he turned into a 45-yard gain by spinning away from two defenders and taking the ball down the sideline, leading to a field goal.

Coming home

West Virginia travels to Maryland for a nonconference showdown next week in a homecoming for a number of Mountaineer players.

Nine players are from Maryland and three more from Washington, D.C.

"Everybody keeps calling my phone saying, 'Tavon, can you get me some tickets?' " said Austin, a native of Baltimore, Md. "I only get two, so hopefully I can get some more from my teammates."

Additional Information:

Saturday's game

West Virginia (2-0) vs.

Maryland (1-0)

When: Noon Saturday at Maryland

Scouting report: West Virginia's offense showed its potential during the second half of Saturday's win, and the Mountaineers look to keep that momentum heading to College Park this weekend.

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