West Virginia defense struggling to keep up with high-flying offenses of Big 12 - The Daily Athenaeum: Football

West Virginia defense struggling to keep up with high-flying offenses of Big 12

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Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 3:41 am

In recent weeks, the West Virginia defense has looked far too familiar.

In 2012, the Mountaineer defense gave up 38 points per contest, which ranked dead last in the Big 12 Conference. Three opponents scored at least 50 points, including 63 points from Baylor and five touchdowns from then-quarterback Nick Florence.

The defensive troubles probably explain why the Mountaineers collapsed towards the end of last season, which consisted of five straight losses and a 7-6 finish after a 5-0 start.

Then-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest started eight freshmen a season ago, and the expectation was the defense would become much more developed and mature in 2013.

And, for a short time, those expectations were met.

Before the Baylor game back on Oct. 5, the Mountaineers were one of the strongest defenses in the Big 12 and ranked No. 37 nationally. Their first three opponents scored a combined 40 points, including 16 from Oklahoma.

The defense also forced 11 turnovers against its first five opponents, three of which came against then-ranked No. 11 Oklahoma State. New defensive coordinator Keith Patterson was named Athlon’s national coordinator of the week for his efforts.

Then the wheels fell off.

Led by Patterson, West Virginia has given up an average of 48 points per game during its current three-game losing streak.

The Mountaineer defense has been on the field for 585 plays this season, which is second most in the Big 12. Their 452 yards of total offense surrendered trails only Iowa State in the conference.

Kansas State defeated WVU 35-12 Saturday thanks to four straight touchdown drives in the second half.

“I don’t know how to describe it,” Patterson said after the loss. “We made one mistake in the first half, then we came out in the second half and lost concentration.

It was a breakdown here, a breakdown there. It wasn’t like (Kansas State) made some great halftime adjustment. They did the same thing in the first half as they did in the second half. It’s frustrating.”

In the second half of Saturday’s game, the Wildcats averaged 12 yards per play and scored two touchdowns on third down. All in all, KSU was 8-for-13 on converting third downs, and its only punt in the second half came early in the third quarter.

For the last three weeks, the Mountaineer defense has allowed 28 third down conversions on 41 attempts, which gives the offense a 68 percent chance of extending the drive.

All in all, West Virginia ranks No. 101 in the country with a 44 percent third down conversion rate.

At 3-5, the Mountaineers have must win three of the last four games to become bowl eligible. A bowl-less season would end West Virginia’s 11-year streak of playing postseason football.

“We just have to keep chomping (away),” Patterson said. “It doesn’t matter what you do in the first half or three quarters; it’s a matter of playing 60 minutes.

For us to be a good defense and take the next step, we have to play consistently. That’s the bottom line.”

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