WVU defense evolves into stingy unit
College Football Videos
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The West Virginia defense entered the season with a number of question marks on defense, with seven first-time starters.
A number of young, unproven players have stepped into bigger roles, and they're thriving.
"Right now, just playing with a lot of younger guys, we're seeing improvement," senior linebacker Najee Goode said.
West Virginia's defense is hitting its stride at the season's midpoint and looks to improve throughout Big East play.
"You can tell people are starting to feel better about the way the defense is playing right now, but you also see they still want to get better," said senior cornerback Keith Tandy, who has two interceptions.
The Mountaineers rank 18th nationally in total defense and own the Big East's top pass defense. It hasn't allowed a touchdown since Bowling Green's first offensive play two weeks ago.
Part of the success comes from the new starters integrating quickly and continuing to improve.
"You're seeing them learn and seeing them get more comfortable," Tandy said of the younger players.
Even with seven new starters, West Virginia is also developing depth behind its first-team players.
With sophomore linebacker Doug Rigg out with a broken wrist for the past two games, redshirt freshman Jewone Snow has played well. He got his second career start last week and had an 83-yard fumble return Saturday against Connecticut that swung the game's momentum.
Rigg is expected back next week against Syracuse, but that just gives West Virginia another linebacker to rotate.
"When we play teams like Cincinnati -- teams that throw the ball a lot and make you run from sideline to sideline every play -- it's good to have another guy come in and play a series for you," Goode said.
West Virginia's also starting to get more pressure on the quarterback. The Mountaineers racked up five sacks Saturday after recording just three through the first five games.
Part of the problem was playing teams that throw the ball quickly, but it's still a comforting feeling to consistently harass the quarterback.
Senior defensive tackle Julian Miller believes that sacks come in bunches, and he's excited that things are starting to click along the defensive line.
"It's almost something you can't put into words," said Miller, who has 1 1⁄2 sacks. "I can't give you the exact reason why (things are clicking). It's just something that happens. [Sacks] really do come in bunches."
During the bye week, West Virginia is focused on fine-tuning its mistakes from the first half of the season, but the emphasis remains the same. The Mountaineers still want to force turnovers, get to the quarterback and get off the field after third down.
As the defense continues to improve, its hoping to reach new heights.
"Toward the end of the season we probably want to reach our peak, especially if we go to a bowl game this year," Miller said. "That's one thing we want to work on through this bye week."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.