dante stills reuben jones 9/14/19

September 14, 2019: West Virginia's Dante Stills and Rueben Jones celebrate a defensive stop in the first half against NC State Saturday.

Following the 38-7 blowout loss at Missouri a week ago, West Virginia defensive coordinator Vic Koenning knew that something needed to change if they were going to have a chance against NC State.

“We played less than tough last week, to say it as nicely as I can,” Koenning said. “We played not like we have to play to be successful. I don’t know what our guys saw in Missouri that they thought they could just go through the motions.”

Koenning wanted to have more intense practices throughout the week, hoping that intensity would carry over in the Saturday’s game.

“We coached them hard, we went back to being a little bit more physical,” he said. “It was a hot week, and we didn’t back off on that. It was what we needed to do to get that bad taste out of our mouth for doing so poor against Missouri.”

The defense rebounded against the Wolfpack, allowing 27 points on 14 drives.

Defensive linemen Dante Stills thought the ramped-up practices helped out come game time.

“It was very intense, very hard,” Stills said. “Whenever we are getting into intense practices it helps us out a lot. We had a really good practice Tuesday [and] Wednesday, and that carried into the game.”

The Mountaineers had a scare early in the game when safety Josh Norwood was ejected from the game due to targeting on NC State’s second drive. Later during that drive, cornerback Keith Washington Jr. was also called for a personal foul that was reviewed for targeting. However, the review came back negative and Washington stayed in the game.

To replace Norwood, true freshman Kerry Martin Jr., a quarterback in high school, came into the game to see his first action of the season.

Koenning thought Martin played very well as a fill in.

“Kerry did a great job, I’m very proud of him,” Koenning said. “I went into the locker room and sprayed him with water like we had just won the world championship.”

The biggest series from the defense came in the third quarter when WVU was up 31-24. West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall was picked off by the NC State defense and set up the Wolfpack offense at WVU’s 21 yard line with a good chance to tie the game.

Three plays and 1 yard later, the Mountaineers’ defense had forced NC State into a field goal try and preserved the lead.

Stills said, even though they prevented the game-tying touchdown, he did not think it was a turning point in the game.

“It’s what we’re supposed to do; our defense is supposed to stop the offense no matter what. As a team, we expect to stop the ball.”

At the end of the day, Koenning said he thought this game was a good step for the Mountaineer defense.

“The guys did some things that kind of make you feel good as a coach,” Koenning said. “Now you can move forward because they see that it works and they do what they’re supposed to do to be successful.”

Koenning also said they must be careful to keep improving and not take any steps back.

“This isn’t the Texas two-step where you go a couple steps forward and a couple steps back. We have got to keep moving forward because we have so far to go to be as competitive as we want to be.”