WVU defense steals the show Saturday

It was just a week ago that Baylor looked dormant before storming back in a big way to erase a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take down TCU 61-58.

And with that offense squaring off against a West Virginia team that was right on the Bears' heels in most offensive statistical categories, it shouldn't come as a surprise that most people were expecting the same type of shootout that it's been the last two times the schools went up against one another.

But that was not the case Saturday, as the Mountaineers triumphed in a 41-27 victory against the Bears at Milan Puskar Stadium. In this one, it was the WVU defense that stole the show.

From the start, the Mountaineers weren't allowing Baylor to get momentum going - finding ways to limit what BU was able to do. West Virginia did it by using a game plan that first-year defensive coordinator Tony Gibson had yet to see an opposing team use against the Bears: It challenged them to make plays against them man-to-man.

Several times throughout the game, WVU brought four cornerbacks into the game to guard the Baylor receivers one-on-one and brought plenty of pressure at Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty. That was a look the Mountaineers went to, primarily, on third downs, and it worked. The Bears came into the game as one of the league's best teams on third down, but converted just three of 12 times.

That powerful Baylor offense looked confused. It looked like it wasn't sure what to do. Everything that had been working for it in the past, every weapon that would come up big for them, it just didn't seem to work.

Heading into Saturday's game, Baylor was able to use its steady running game to set up that electric aerial attack. Powered by Shock Linwood, the Bears were averaging more than 250 yards per game on the ground - more than 60 yards per game more than any other school in the Big 12 Conference.

Before the season, Gibson pointed specifically to Baylor and talked about the way it is able to use its ground game to set up what it does through the air and issued something that seemed like a bold statement then.

"I don't give a crap about giving up passing yards," he said. "We're not going to let them run the ball on us."

Baylor ran the ball 42 times against the Mountaineers - a number that, if it would have gained its usual average of five yards per carry, would have equaled 210 rushing yards. But Saturday the Bears managed to gain a measly 95 rushing yards on the West Virginia defense.

And while Petty threw for 223 yards and two scores, he did not look nearly as sharp as he has in the past.

That was against a West Virginia secondary that spent the entire second half (when Baylor was trailing and needing to pass the ball to get back in the game) without both Daryl Worley and Terrell Chestnut.

When Gibson took over, it was clear that the Mountaineers would be making the switch back to the same type of 3-3-5 stack defense with a blue-collar mentality that had made West Virginia such a successful defensive football team during the last time Gibson was in Morgantown with head coach Rich Rodriguez and former defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel.

There were glimpses that it was getting back to that unit that confused teams, confounded them and just made it difficult to do anything because they were going to play hard every snap and outwork you to will their way to a win.

He said Saturday's performance was the best defensive performance he's been a part of, considering what the team was like on the other side of the field, since the Mountaineers took down then-No. 3 Virginia Tech at Milan Puskar Stadium in 2003.

And if that showing was any indication of things to come, this has the chance to be a pretty good defense as the Mountaineers prepare to hit a crucial stretch of Big 12 play.


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