Changes lead to success for WVU defense vs. TCU
Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2012 00:11
It was clear to see something needed to be done before the West Virginia defense’s game against TCU Saturday.
Coming off their 55-14 loss to Kansas State, the Mountaineers were allowing 53 points per game against Big 12 Conference opponents, and they were ranked last nationally in pass defense.
And during its bye week, WVU made those changes, and for most of Saturday’s game, the changes worked.
"They responded to all the criticism and scrutiny they’ve been under," said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. "They practiced hard and got better. They did everything we tried to accomplish over the course of the past two weeks."
Perhaps the biggest change came when co-defensive coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson switched places. After spending the first seven games up in the booth, Patterson coached from on the field while DeForest moved up to the press box.
"I loved it. In 23 years of coaching I had never been up in the box before, and I don’t think I’ll ever leave," DeForest said. "I could see the big picture. I was calm making calls, and I think that had a lot to do with how we played tonight.
"We gave up some plays we shouldn’t have, but in the big picture we got better. And that’s all you can ask for."
West Virginia also made a couple of personnel changes on the field that had a big impact on the way the defense played.
Cecil Level and Ishmael Banks received their first starts in the secondary and responded well, finishing with five and four tackles, respectively. Level, who switched from cornerback to safety, also forced a fumble.
"(Level) gave great effort every day," DeForest said. "As long as you give effort and you play hard and you attack the football, then you can play here."
Of the 31 points they scored in regulation, TCU got seven from a fumble recovery for a touchdown after a bad snap on a WVU punt deep in its own territory and scored again on a quick strike after the Horned Frogs got a good field position after a Geno Smith interception.
The biggest blow to the WVU defense came at the end of regulation when TCU struck for a 94-yard touchdown pass from Trevone Boykin to Josh Boyce to send the game into overtime.
It was the third time the Mountaineers had given up a long touchdown at the end of a half.
"A lot of things happened in that game that could have swayed it either way. We had an opportunity to win the game several times, and we didn’t. We had the game won, all we’ve got to do is stay in coverage," DeForest said.
"It’s a lack of focus. We’ve got to do a better job of getting them to understand the situation and it was something we had done right the last two weeks (in practice). That’s on us for not harping on it even more. But they’ve got to do what they’re supposed to do," he said.
Even with the loss and the amount of struggle, this is a good game for the young defense to build.
"We probably played our best defensive game of the year," DeForest said. "We played with great passion, we played with energy.
"If they can look at the tape and say, ‘Look how well we played in certain areas.’ That’s huge. And they can also look and see that you need concentration throughout an entire game or else it could cost you."
But even with how well the personnel changes worked against TCU, the Mountaineers understand that there are no moral victories, and a loss is a loss no matter how you look at it.
"All the stats that we came up with as a unit is good and all, but if you don’t come out with the only stat that counts, it doesn’t matter.
We’ve got to hate to lose more than we love to win, so we’re going to go into next week with even more excitement and even more drive to win," said redshirt freshman Isaiah Bruce.