With two regular season games left, West Virginia ranks second-to-last in the Big 12 in total sacks with 20, but defensive end Noble Nwachukwu has provided the majority of what little pass rush WVU has been able to generate this year.
His 6.5 sacks through 10 games make him West Virginia’s team-leader in that category, and puts him in a tie for fourth-most in the Big 12 with Texas’ Peter Jinkens. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2014, Nwachukwu has slowly molded himself into a dangerous pass rusher. Especially in late-game scenarios, Nwachukwu said he has been able to get a good feel of how to beat linemen off the ball and cause havoc in the backfield.
“Part of it is knowing the situation. Knowing it’s going to be a pass I know I can work my moves, and I know when to work my moves," he said. "It’s usually later in the game, so I already have a feel for the lineman I’m going against and I already know what he’s going to do to me."
Every game provides a new matchup and a new challenge in terms of the man Nwachukwu is tasked with getting by at the snap of the ball. As you might expect, he said there is a certain feeling out period that takes place during the game where he gages the best way to beat his man.
“It usually takes me a couple quarters to fully get a feel for what he’s doing. It takes me a couple quarters to really get in my zone, I guess you could say,” Nwachukwu said.
Some of the game’s elite pass rushers have mentioned the tendency of “picking your spots” in reference to knowing when to unleash your best move. That isn’t the case for Nwachukwu. He said he’s all-go all the time.
“I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t say I hold anything back. Whatever move I think is going to work, I’m going to do it, and I’m going to try to get a sack on every play,” he said.
With Senior Day coming up Saturday, Nwachukwu will likely soon be looked to as the leader of this defensive line. For the next three games, however, that distinction belongs to senior defensive lineman Kyle Rose. Nwachukwu said he has learned plenty from Rose over the years.
“He’s meant a lot, man," Nwachukwu said. "He’s taught me a lot. He’s been here a long time. He’s a big part of our defense and we’re just trying to send him out on the right note. He’s vocal on the field. He always gets me right. He’s very vocal. He likes to talk a little trash, and that’s fun when you’ve got someone who likes talking trash with you.”
Rose serves as the emotional and physical leader of the defensive line, a distinction that may fall to Nwachukwu next season. For now, Nwachukwu said his senior teammate is a calming influence in the heat of battle.
“He’ll tell us where we need to be," Nwachukwu said. "He’ll tell us what the call is if we don’t hear it. He’s really good at recognizing hand signals really quick. He’ll get us right."