Match-Ups: WVU - Baylor

Passing and possessions figure heavily in our items to watch as WVU opens Big 12 play against Baylor. Game Scorecard
Sat 9/29/12 12:00 PM

Morgantown, WV

Mountaineer Field
Record: 3-0
Polls: 7/9
Last Game
Maryland 31-21 W
Radio: MSN
Polls: 24/25
Last Game
ULM W 47-42
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Press Release
Season Stats
2012 Schedule

Series: First Meeting
First Meeting: 2012
Last Meeting: 2012
Press Release
Season Stats
2012 Schedule

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Baylor Wide Receivers vs. WVU Pass Defense

If there's a team in the Big 12 that can match West Virginia's talented corps of pass catchers, it's Baylor. The Bears have four receivers with more than 1,000 career yards, and three of them have the chance to add at least another thousand to their career totals in 2012. Lanear Sampson (19 catches for 202 yards), Terance Williams (17-353) and Tevin Reese (15-304) all are threats to get downfield, with the latter pair averaging more than 20 yards per catch. Add in transfer Darryl Stonum, who brought more than 1,000 yards with him when he came to Baylor from Michigan, and the Bears are capable of breaking big plays from any spot in the receiver lineup.

How does West Virginia battle this? First, with pressure. WVU must get quarterback Nick Florence "off the spot" -- that is, off his preferred location in his dropback when he wants to set up to go downfield. Second, expect the Mountaineers to stay in a lot of two-deep zone -- that is, with two safeties each staying deep and covering half the field. That leaves them more vulnerable to short and medium-range passes, but it also prevents the big play and gives more chances to force a turnover, or for the Bears to make a mistake.

In a way, West Virginia's defense deep is somewhat conservative, as the Mountaineers haven't shown much press coverage early in the season. WVU's cornerbacks aren't built for that sort of play, so the defense counters that with aggressive blitzing and rushing from different angles -- all with the thought, however, of keeping the ball in front of its deep defenders. The phrase "as deep as the deepest" has long been a rule of thumb for safeties playing centerfield, and it's likely to be on display again on Saturday.

Watch West Virginia's safeties, Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook, closely at the snap. Although both actually blitzed and played up a few times against Maryland, look for the focus to be on stopping the home run on Saturday.

Baylor linebackers vs. WVU passing game

The trio of Bear starters is a very active group, and exerts influence from the pocket to the middle passing zones. How will West Virginia handle them?

Tavon Austin
Bryce Hager, Ahmad Dixon and Eddie Lackey lead Baylor in tackles -- just what you'd expect from the starters in a 4-3 defense. They do a lot more than just make stops in their zones, however. The trio has combined for five sacks and also owns two of Baylor's six interceptions. In the rush, they often get to the quarterback, recording those sacks as well as hits that force early throws. When they drop back, they have the ability to get into passing lanes and disrupt the timing and reads of opposing throwers. They will present a challenge to WVU's scheme, which depends on quick reads and adjustments in its passing games.

One of the keys in this match-up will be the abiity of the Baylor linebackers to tackle WVU's receivers in space, and keep them from breaking free for bigger gains. A familiar sight on game video is West Virginia's receivers on short crossing routes or stick routes into holes in the underneath coverage -- followed by a quick burst of speed and a long gain as Austin or Bailey speed by slower 'backers. Will the Mountaineers be able to shake free from the Baylor underneath coverage?

On the other end, West Virginia's offensive line has to do a better job of picking up blitzes. Rather simple tactics a week ago from Maryland had Geno Smith under pressure, and there's not much doubt that the Bears will be trying to duplicate that effort. Watch for Baylor's linebackers to unleash a number of twists and stunts, often playing off left end Terrance Lloyd, who has three sacks of his own.


Neither team worries about time of possession. Baylor averages just 24:32 of ball control per game, while WVU keeps it for just 26:46. The important thing to watch in terms of possession in this game isn't time -- it's the number of possessions. Of course, the total number is always balanced, but which team can create "extra" possessions by getting turnovers or forcing punts quickly?

Obviously, turnovers are important, but the thing to keep track of here is turnovers plus "short possessions" -- say, those that last five plays or fewer and end in punts. (It won't be a surprise to see both teams with scores on short possessions, so we're looking for those that result in a loss of the ball.) Total those up, and the team with more will have a huge advantage in the game.

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West Virginia's offensive line took a good bit of heat for its shortcomings against Maryland's blitz last week, but that group shouldn't have been the subject of all the criticism. WVU's running backs, both large and small, also whiffed on their fair share of blocks and pickups in the contest.

To that end, spare an eye for West Virginia's backs when Geno Smith drops to pass. If Cody Clay or Ryan Clarke are in, they have to be able to stand up to rushing linebackers or twisting defensive ends and stalemate them. Shawne Alston will obviously be the subjec of attention as he hopes to rebound from the injury that kept him out of all but a couple of plays against Maryland, but Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison have to pick up as well. Terrapin linebackers stampeded thorugh West Virginia's second level of protection a week ago, and the Mountaineers simply can't afford a repeat of that performance. All of the backs -- large, small and in between -- have to help the offensive line in the protection game. If they don't, look for quick replacements from the coaching staff.

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In a game that expects to be offense-dominated, spare a moment for a pair of Mountaineer defenders that have made their marks on special defensive sets. Defensive lineman Eric Kinsey and linebacker Shaq Petteay have been mainstays on groups that see the field during passing situations, and both have contributed strongly. Petteway has 11 tackles in three games, including 1.5 for loss, while Kinsey has three stops and a pass breakup while manning several different spots along the defensive front. Watch for #36 (Petteway) and #45 (Kinsey) when players sub in and out in those passing situations, and track them during the ensuing action. They are likely to be right around the ball as they lead efforts to end Baylor possessions with third down stops.

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