Defensive Resurgence

Defensive Resurgence

Keith Patterson and the West Virginia defense aren't ready to give up on 2012 just yet.

The Mountaineers, which have one of the worst statistical defenses in the country in just about every category, weren't awful vs. TCU in the 39-38 two-overtime loss over the Horned Frogs. In fact, WVU was downright stingy on defense many times.

West Virginia held TCU to 405 total yards and didn't allow many big plays outside of a second quarter touchdown pass.

The Mountaineers were tough on third down for much of the contest for really the first time this season. They handled the dual threat nature of quarterback Trevone Boykin well, too.

"We played good. We responded to all the criticism and scrutiny they've been under," said head coach Dana Holgorsen. "We've gotten better defensively."

When it counted most, West Virginia's defense toughened up. On third-and-goal from the WVU 4-yard line late in the third quarter, Boykin dropped back to pass and looked over the middle of the field. But, he found the arms of linebacker Isaiah Bruce, who returned it out of the end zone and ended the scoring opportunity to keep WVU's three-point lead intact at the time.

Later in the fourth quarter, it forced a punt when TCU was threatening to take the lead.

With under four minutes left and TCU driving to take a lead again, linebackers Josh Francis and Shaq Petteway combined to sack Boykin, which would lead to the go-ahead punt return touchdown by Tavon Austin.

After that, the defense forced a three-and-out, and then gave up a game-tying bomb with 1:28 to play.

Most people will remember that long touchdown, and they should as it was a decisive play. But, the defense made so many strides outside of that one situation. It would be hard to ignore the progress.

"That's tough to see after how hard they played," Holgorsen said.

In overtime, the defense held strong, forced a field goal and that went wide left allowing the Mountaineers to finish on the right end of the scoreboard.

It would end up being all for a loss, but the WVU defense stepped up either way.

The defense sparked it all on Saturday.

"Other than that one play, I thought we played really well defensively," Holgorsen said.

West Virginia went for a change up on Saturday defensively, and it worked to perfection.

After giving up an average of 39.86 points per game and 493.57 yards per game through the first seven contests, to say the Mountaineers have been bad would be an understatement.

In Big 12 play prior to Saturday's contest, WVU gave up at least 45 points or more in every contest. The defense under coordinator Joe DeForest became the laughing stock of the program and perhaps the Big 12 at times.

Since the Mountaineers fell from the top 5 following two straight losses, national pundits have taken shots at WVU for its lack of defense. And, really, it's hard to blame them, because it was that bad.

But, on Saturday, West Virginia looked like a team with a defense – one that wasn't terrible.

Sure, TCU isn't going to put up points like Baylor, but the Horned Frogs are historically a decent offensive team. Prior to Saturday's game, they averaged 33.25 points per game and 429.5 yards per game.

They were held far below that by WVU – and I among many others never thought I would be writing that at about 3 p.m. today.

Patterson was the wild card for West Virginia. He has experience calling defenses and used it on Saturday to confuse TCU.

For the first time in a long time – maybe this season to be honest – the Mountaineers looked resilient on defense. When it would give up a big play, it would come back with something to stop the bleeding.

Take, for example, after giving up a fourth-down conversation early in the fourth quarter, it held TCU to a field goal by winning on first and second downs and holding on during third down. That wouldn't have happened two weeks ago. It didn't time and time again.

This begs the question, though, why did it take Holgorsen this long to make a change?

If DeForest wasn't getting the job done on the field, why not make the move earlier? Maybe the two losses prior to the TCU game would've been played a bit differently.

Can West Virginia do this against one of the best offenses in the country next week? Oklahoma State will test the Mountaineers downfield, something TCU rarely did. It will be a different and more difficult test – one West Virginia has failed at before this year.

This was one game that WVU's defense showed up to play. Is it for real or merely just a bad day by TCU?

We won't know until next Saturday. Until then, the sky is falling a lot slower than it was two weeks ago on the defensive side of things in Morgantown.

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