Column - Turnovers, big plays need to continue
Published: Monday, September 19, 2011
Updated: Monday, September 19, 2011 23:09
Finally, it happened. The West Virginia defense got its first turnovers of the season in its 37-31 win against Maryland Saturday, Sept. 17.
Three in fact. Three interceptions, and one was returned 38 yards for a touchdown by junior safety Terence Garvin in the first quarter.
It was exactly what the Mountaineers needed at the start of a big road rivalry game to lessen the pressure off the defense's shoulders and get the first turnover out of the way.
The defense will certainly need to make big plays and force some turnovers on defense this week when No. 2 LSU comes to Morgantown.
The Tigers are getting their top wide receiver and playmaker back this week.
Junior Russell Shepard was suspended the first three games of the regular season for violating an NCAA rule. The 6-foot-1 receiver was suspended by the NCAA for discussing with fellow teammate Craig Loston about an investigation going on by the NCAA dealing with a player named Willie Lyles, who was paid by Oregon and LSU for recruiting service information.
Last season, Shepard caught 33 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 226 yards and two touchdowns.
The WVU defense showed it can create turnovers and shut down drives during the first half of the Maryland game. It also showed it can break down and allow some big plays for big gains during the second half of the game.
The defense allowed just 176 yards of total offense in the first half against Maryland, and only 64 of those were on the ground.
They'll have to step it up even more with the talent of Shepard and LSU sophomore running back Spencer Ware. Ware is 5-foot-11, 225 pounds and runs harder, stronger and faster than Maryland back Davin Meggett, who finished the game with 96 yards and a touchdown.
We all know what happened last year in Baton Rouge, as defense and special teams played a large role in the outcome of the game. One big play by former LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson made a big difference in LSU's victory.
West Virginia will need one or two big plays on defense no matter how many points the offense scores on Saturday.
Certainly, the players will be pumped up, as ESPN College GameDay hypes up the game all day until the 8 p.m. kickoff.
Garvin and several other players talked about getting too hyped up before and during the game against Maryland, which is hard not to do for a big game like this, at home and on national television.
But, the players are told every week by head coach Dana Holgorsen that the next game is just like every other game on the schedule, regardless of who they are playing.
The players should take that advice from their coach, because if they don't, this SEC powerhouse will blow them out of the water with their talent and athleticism.
The defense has its confidence flying high after getting a few turnovers Saturday, and that goes a long way when you're going up against a top-5 team. If the players believe, they will rally around each other and play better as a unit. The little things they got caught on late in the second half against Maryland, leading to the Terps almost coming back to win, may not happen against LSU this weekend now. This is crucial because a team like LSU will capitalize on plays that Maryland did not.
The defensive line continued to struggle, recording no sacks and struggling to pressure Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien in the second half. This week is a pivotal time for somebody, anybody, to make a difference on the front seven of the defensive line. If you pressure a quarterback like LSU's Jarrett Lee, he will make mistakes. If not, he can lead his team to victory without putting up huge numbers.
Get ready for a wild night in Morgantown. As much as the West Virginia offense needs to keep its stride going, the defense needs to continue to make critical plays and clean up the mishaps it made in the second half last week. Remember as this seemingly special season unveils – defense wins championships.