Safeties play big role in Mountaineers’ 37-31 win
Published: Monday, September 19, 2011
Updated: Monday, September 19, 2011 23:09
In the first two games of the season, the West Virginia defense had yet to force a turnover.
It was something they had emphasized since preseason camp began, and while it was a little frustrating, they knew it was something that would work itself out eventually.
"It is what it is," said defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel the Tuesday before the Mountaineers took on Maryland. "We had a chance to get a couple of interceptions; they had a couple of bad snaps that bounced back to their guy. We've just got to continue working on it."
That work finally started to pay off in WVU's 37-31 win over the Terrapins last week.
Thanks to the play of its safeties, the defense that struggled to get turnovers against Marshall and Norfolk State was able to get three against Maryland.
And they came just when the Mountaineers needed them the most.
The first turnover came near the end of the first quarter when junior Terence Garvin picked off a Danny O'Brien pass and took it 37 yards for a touchdown to give West Virginia a 14-3 lead.
"I saw the crossing route and I kind of just jumped it really,"Garvin said. "It was a big play. It put points on the board and changed the momentum.
"It seemed like everyone was fired up, so it was a big play, especially on the road."
For Garvin, a Maryland native, the good game from the defense was something they had been waiting to have and was encouraging to see.
"We played very good in the first half. We were very excited and real motivated," he said. "This was emotional for me because I'm from Maryland, so I was real fired up."
Garvin's play was big for the Mountaineers to be able to seize momentum early on, but it wasn't even the biggest play on defense in the game.
That one would come on Maryland's final drive of the game.
Down six and driving methodically down the field, the Terrapins were looking like they were going to have a great chance to at least tie the game, and maybe even take the lead.
On third-and-eight and deep in West Virginia territory, O'Brien had his third pass of the day intercepted by redshirt senior safety Eain Smith.
When the pass that ended up being the game-sealing interception was in the air, there was only one thing on Smith's mind.
"Just catch it. End the game," he said.
They were finally able to force turnovers, but the West Virginia defense still struggled at times in the second half. For the first time since the 2010 Gator Bowl, the Mountaineers gave up more than 400 yards.
But even with those struggles, there were still positives to take from the big plays the defense was able to make down the stretch when the team needed it the most.
"When it comes down to it, we will make plays. That's what I have to say about our defense," Smith said. "We've just got to work on it, watch film, and get ready for LSU.