Defense Shows Improvement

West Virginia's defense made a statement on Saturday against James Madison. And it needed to.

The Mountaineers held the Dukes to just 300 total yards in the 42-12 win at Fed Ex Field as the No. 8 team in the country cruised to 2-0.

WVU held James Madison to just 99 total yards in the first half. Quarterback Justin Thorpe was just 3-of-7 for 27 yards and was sacked once in the half. No running back averaged more than 3.3 yards per carry, either.

The Dukes averaged 3.1 yards per play in the first half. WVU's offense, on the other hand, averaged 8.5 yards per play. It was a defensive show.

The only downside to the defense's play in the first half was a field goal by JMU – and that came only after a poor, 24-yard punt from Corey Smith.

In the second half, the defense left some holes open but came through in the end.

After WVU failed to convert a fourth-and-one at midfield at the start of the second half, the WVU defense stood tall at the goal line. Safety Darwin Cook made a nice tackle on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line to keep it at 28-3.

The defense came through on the next possession, too, as Dozie Ezemma came through with a sack on third down to keep the JMU offense in check.

The WVU defense got gashed through the middle of the field on JMU's next offensive drive, but on third and goal at the WVU 6-yard line, a pass was tipped and intercepted by linebacker Tyler Anderson to give the ball back to the Mountaineers.

It was a defensive show for the most part the rest of the way, too.

Many developed even more concerns about the defense after the Mountaineers' 69-34 win over Marshall to open the season two weeks ago. WVU gave up 545 total yards, and the 34 points were concerning.

West Virginia had trouble getting to the quarterback and didn't tackle as seamlessly as the coaching staff would've liked in that game. It seems the necessary improvements were made in the bye week – at least for this game – as the Mountaineers were much better.

They flew to the ball, got the quarterback and made tackles more consistently throughout the game.

The coaching staff wants three turnovers each game, and that didn't happen on Saturday, but the other necessary changes and alterations were made from Game One.

That's all West Virginia fans should be looking for at this point. Sure, JMU is nothing like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Kansas State. But, it is another opponent with enough talent to give some teams trouble – like Virginia Tech – in the past.

To see such drastic change in a span of two weeks may be a sign of what's to come. Remember, this defense is extremely young. There are players on the field at times that you might've never heard of or seen out there before.

Making improvements prior to Big 12 play is key. WVU has one more opportunity against a fairly weak Maryland team to do so before Baylor shows up.

But, through Game Two, you have to feel a bit better about where the defense is at this point.

It's still a young season, though.


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