After breaking down the film from week one, West Virginia safeties coach Matt Caponi was impressed with the play of his group after the Mountaineers stifled the Missouri offense for the better part of the afternoon. The Mount Union graduate pointed to the Mountaineer safeties' effort and ability to respond to a fast-paced, up-tempo attack as some of the main things that impressed him.
"I was very pleased," Caponi said. "I thought our guys played hard. They were flying around. For playing over 100 snaps, I don't think they loafed as much as I thought we did. I thought we were able to play and tackle really well in space. Missouri did some things to try to spread us out, which we had an idea they were going to try and do. I thought in Fall camp we might have struggled a little bit at some times in space but we were pretty solid tackling in space and running to the football in general."
The ability to tackle well in space was evidenced in the final stat sheet as the starting Mountaineer safeties combined for 16 tackles, led by the physical junior college transfer Kyzir White, who was in on a number of big hits throughout the afternoon. Even though Caponi was impressed he did concede that there are some things he would like to see the Mountaineers clean up in week two when Youngstown State comes to town.
"(I want to clean up) some alignment stuff," Caponi said. "Some technique stuff that will put us in better positions. We have to understand all of the situations we're in, especially when teams go fast. We can get caught up in the moment and not realize it's third and three or third and six so we need to get our alingnments where they need to be in order to put us in position to be successful in those critical down situations where we can get off of the field."
West Virginia will face a much different offense in week two, as Youngstown State will run an offense that is a night and day difference than Missouri's. The Penguins ran the ball 53 times and threw just 18 passes in their 45-10 opening week win against Duquesne. Youngstown State's run-heavy attack will make the Mountaineer safeties ability to tackle in space and offer support in the run game even more of an emphasis in week two.
One of the Mountaineers' stars in week one was sam linebacker Justin Arndt, who registered eight total tackles, including a bone-jarring sack in which he literally de-cleated Missouri quarterback Drew Lock. Arndt's play headlined the play of the three new starting linebackers and he discussed why he thought the unit was able to play so well.
"All of us were out there getting the defense lined up and making adjustments," Arndt said. "That was the biggest thing I saw. Because it was the first game we didn't see much of what they had."
The Mountaineer defenders were superb in communicating with each other and adjusting to the up-tempo Missouri offense on the fly, but Arndt also said there were some other factors that helped the linebackers play at a high level.
"I thought we had a chip on our shoulders," Arndt said. "We were losing three (starting linebackers) from last year and that's all we heard for the last six months. We had a chip on our shoulder and wanted to prove that it's just the next man in and to show that we're able to go in and compete and do the same thing that they did last year."
It will be important for the Mountaineer defenders to maintain that chip in week two when the stakes aren't as high. It's easy to get fired up for a nationally televised opener against an SEC team, but the environment and buzz surrounding West Virginia's week two match-up against Youngstown St. will be much different. One of the main challenges the Mountaineers will face will be manufacturing their own intensity and motivation leading in to Saturday's game.