Secondary Ready For Terps' Passing Game

Through three games, the numbers certainly look better.

Then again, it was going to be difficult for the West Virginia pass defense to get much worse than it was a year ago when it was just one of three FBS teams to allow more than 300 passing yards per game.

Under new cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell, the Mountaineer secondary is currently ranked eighth in the country - allowing 136.7 yards per game through the air.

But WVU hasn't faced a passing attack like it is going to see Saturday when it heads to Baltimore to take on Maryland at M&T Bank Stadium.

After William & Mary attempted 27 passes in the season opener Aug. 31, the Mountaineers' next two opponents haven't thrown the ball more than 20 times in a game. Maryland is coming into this week's game averaging 27 passes per game, but the weapons the Terrapins boast in the passing game could be difficult for WVU to handle.

It will offer a good look at where they need to get better before Big 12 Conference play begins.

"We haven't faced a passing attack like this yet," said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. "Do we feel better about where we are defensively? Yes, absolutely. Do we have it all figured out? No. Maryland is going to bring some bigger challenges, they have the ability.

"Oklahoma State and Baylor, our next two opponents, are also going to have a lot of ability. So this will be the game where we see where we are at."

Much like West Virginia had with Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey a year ago, Maryland has a duo of talented receivers who have given defenses fits up to this point in the season in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.

Diggs and Long have combined to catch 31 passes for 560 yards and four touchdowns.

"They kind of remind me of Sted and Tavon," said defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. "There are a lot of similarities in the way they use them and a lot of similarities in the ways they try to get them the ball. And then when you couple that with (Maryland's) ability to go and run the ball for 225 yards per game with a running quarterback who can run the ball and spread it around, the key is to win third downs and force turnovers."

With all of that talent throughout the Terrapin offense, this will be the first real test to the Mountaineer secondary. Of course, Oklahoma provided challenges but no team on the WVU schedule up to this point has been a proven threat to pass the ball effectively the way Maryland has been so far.

But it's nothing that West Virginia won't be ready for.

"Some of the other teams who haven't threatened us vertically, it is what it is, but this is going to be a test for us," Mitchell said. "Our scheme is a great scheme and you can't isolate one person. You can't isolate a weakness because of the versatility of what we do and the unpredictability of what we're going to give teams."

West Virginia is starting to see that potential it thought it had in the secondary begin to make plays in game situations. And although senior Brodrick Jenkins, one of the more experienced players on the defense heading into the season, is no longer with the team, the Mountaineers still have players they're confident in to make plays. Starting corners Ishmael Banks and Travis Bell have improved every week, according to Mitchell, and freshman Daryl Worley has received widespread praise from the coaching staff.

Add in a healthy Terrell Chestnut and Avery Williams, and the Mountaineers are starting to see the depth they were hoping to have at the start of the year. Now they just have to turn that talent into positive results on the field.

"They're going to throw it. I'm just thinking to myself that I've got to be on point," Banks said. "I can't have no mess-ups, we have to make sure we're doing everything right. It's about getting locked in and ready to go."

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