Darius Stills (56) celebrates with the defense after an interception against Kansas on Oct. 17, 2020.

Darius Stills (56) celebrates with the defense after an interception against Kansas on Oct. 17, 2020.

In the first three games of the season, the Mountaineer defense has needed to carry the load in order for WVU to start the season 2-1. In the fourth game of the year against Kansas, the defense showed up again in a big way.

“Defensively, we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” head coach Neal Brown said after the victory against the Jayhawks. “Guys are flying around. It’s really about effort and about physicality.”

On the day, West Virginia (3-1, 2-1 Big 12) held Kansas (0-4, 0-3) to only 157 yards of total offense and 2.9 yards per play. Neal Brown said that the success on defense comes from the defensive line playing well.

“I think defensive success starts from up front,” Neal Brown said. “We’ve got some guys there that are doing a nice job that are winning one on one battles. We’re mixing it up as far as how we get to some of our pressure stuff.”

Starting out a defensive series is a major key in getting stops. Throughout the day, WVU was able to keep Kansas from getting ahead on the offensive end, only allowing seven first downs the entire afternoon.

“I thought we won on first down,” Neal Brown said about why the defense was successful. “If you can get ahead of the chains and really own first downs and that’s something we’ve spent a lot of time practicing is first downs, and we won first downs.”

One of the biggest highlights of the entire game was when a deflected pass was picked off by a sprawling Darius Stills, his first interception of his career. Stills has been recognized as one of the best defensive linemen in the Big 12 and in the country.

“He can bend, he’s got athletic skills,” Neal Brown said about Stills. “As far as being able to move laterally, that’s what makes him special.”

While the defense was performing throughout, the offense needed a boost as it has struggled mightily to start the season. Things started out in the worst way, with a fumble recovered by Kansas on the first drive.

The Jayhawks were able to take advantage of a sputtering offense and took a 10-0 lead early in the first quarter. When the offense finally got a rhythm and was able to rattle off 38 straight points, it was running back Leddie Brown that led the way.

The junior dominated on the ground all game, piling up 195 yards, highlighted by an 87-yard touchdown scamper. He also had five receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown.

“It’s something that he’s really worked on over the last two years,” Neal Brown said of Leddie Brown. “People assume big backs are interior guys. He actually does a really good job on perimeter runs and he’s excellent catching the ball in the backfield.”

Through four games, Leddie Brown has racked up 515 yards rushing and ran in five touchdowns to lead the Mountaineers. Neal Brown attributes the success that Leddie Brown has had throughout this season to his work ethic in practice.

“Leddie has gotten better as his practice habits have improved,” Neal Brown acknowledged. “He is, if not our best, he’s in the conversation. On Tuesday and Wednesday when it’s workdays for us, he’s working.”

The Mountaineers will be in action again on Saturday, Oct. 24 when they take on Texas Tech. The game is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. and will be nationally televised on ESPN2.

Sports Editor

Matthew Digby is a senior at WVU majoring in journalism with a minor in sport communication. He has been working at the Daily Athenaeum for one year and is working as the Sports Editor for the first time this fall. He is from Ottawa Lake, Michigan.