West Virginia defense focused on slowing down tough LSU running game
Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 00:09
The West Virginia defense knows exactly what its goal is when No. 2 LSU comes to town Saturday – stop the run.
LSU has scored on its last 40 possessions inside the red zone, and it's going to get in the end zone with its power-rushing attack.
The Tigers are lead by their 225-pound sophomore running back Spencer Ware, who has 230 yards on the ground and three touchdowns so far this season. LSU has another running back in sophomore Michael Ford, who has 221 yards and four touchdowns.
The Mountaineers have focused this week in practice on getting lower than the LSU offensive lineman and getting a faster start off of the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.
"As a defense, what we've been practicing and what our coaches have been pounding in our head is that we have to play low," said redshirt senior defensive end Julian Miller. "We have to definitely play on their side of the line of scrimmage, as opposed to those guys getting off the line and pushing us back."
The defensive line already started practicing its goal line sets in preparation for LSU. In the first two games, the defense did not get a lot of pressure from opposing teams in the red zone. Last week at Maryland, the unit struggled a little bit in the second half to stop some big runs.
"That's one thing that the coaches are really emphasizing on us, about working on a couple goal line packages … I think the coaches are going to keep installing and pushing into our heads as the week goes on."
The defense feels if it can shut down LSU's running game early, it will make the Tigers one-dimensional. The players think that gives them an advantage. The passing game is not something that they feel is LSU's strong point.
"It increases our chances of winning tremendously because our coaches always say they want us to stop the run first," said redshirt junior defensive tackle Jorge Wright.
Wright said getting into this type of situation will benefit the athletes like Bruce Irvin, Will Clarke and Miller on West Virginia's defensive line.
The mentality of the defense has been getting LSU to play in their system, which is run-first. It will not be an easy task, but the team is not going to back down from the challenge.
"That's what we've been focusing on, and that's what we know (LSU) is going to do," said redshirt senior linebacker Najee Goode. "If you watch their games, you know that's what they're going to try to do on us, and we're going to stop them from doing it."
Senior defensive end Bruce Irvin knows he's not the biggest defensive end in the country, but is confident in himself and his teammates to go up against offensive linemen who are almost 100 pounds heavier.
"This is backyard, smash-mouth football," Irvin said. "None of that spreading out, three-four wide, they're coming at you downhill, so you just have to play your assignment."
Defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel have been instilling execution and getting pads lower than the opposing team all summer. The players are prepared to go out and do it against the No. 2 team in the country like it is any other team they've played.
"Playing hard and playing physical," Miller said. "That's the kind of game it's going to be. Hopefully there will be a lot of hard hitting."