The West Virginia defense has been stellar so far this year. Despite self-admitted lapses in effort and concentration, the Mountaineers stand first in the nation in scoring defense after Saturday's games. Add in a #2 national ranking in pass efficiency defense and a #3 positioning in red zone defense, and by any sort of measure WVU's troops are standing tall and strong.
In fact, West Virginia's defensive showing has been so good that many aren't even mentioning it, or are glossing over it in search of other angles.. The defense was expected to be a strong point in 2105, and it is, so where's the story in that? When the West Virgiia defense didn't record back-to-back shutouts in its first two games, that, not the overall great play, was the tack taken by many. So it was that after WVU's 45-6 throttling of Maryland, the focus turned to a 55-yard run, one of just two plays where the Mountaineers didn't execute at a high level.
Of course, some of the attention was due to the excellent effort of cornerback Terrell Chestnut, who chased down Terp back Brendon Ross from across the field at the Mountaineer on-yard line, and in the process forced a fumble that squirted out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. But in another sense, the play drew attention simply becasue of its rarity this year -- something that worked for an opposing offense. There have been so few of those that they naturally draw comment and attention. But for the player most involved with turning Maryland's biggest play into a plus for WVU, it was just a sign that the defense still has things it can do better.
"It just shows areas of improvement that we need to work on," Chestnut said when asked about the rarity of good Terrapin plays, and the statement that makes about West Virginia's defensive success this year. "Obviously that big run should never happen. It is something that we have to look at in the film and correct."
"You have to like Chestnut's approach -- not being satisfied with an effort that yielded just six points, forced 22 incompletions and picked off four passes. Teams are going to execute well at times and gain yardage. That's not a fatalistic or a give-up view. It's a fact. Only in the most lopsided of mismataches will one side do absolutely nothing right. But while Maryland wasn't that bad, the Mountaineers certainly had them in the neighborhood. And that focus, for Chesnut, was very similar to that of many after the game. It was those few enemy successes, and not the big pile of West Virginia wins, that had his attention.
"I think there is always room for improvement, so there's no such thing as a perfect game," he said when asked if WVU cam close to such an effort. "There are things we can minimize and things we can correct so we can limit the chances they have. We didn't want to give up any points. We just wanted to show them we were a different defense than we wer last year and two years ago."
Next week, the challenge will multiply tenfold. Without question, Oklahoma will make good offensive plays. It will execute well. And it will likely score points. The key for Chestnut and the Mountaineers? Put those behind them, play the next play, and focus on winning that one. And perhaps, somewhere along the way, flip a couple of theose Sooner successes into West Virginia wins.