Following last Saturday's victory over Youngstown State West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson apologized to every defender who had ever dawned a West Virginia uniform. While the defense didn't meet expectations it was probably a little much considering it only allowed one score in the final 40 minutes of play in Saturday's game. Senior linebacker Justin Arndt, who has already tallied 13 tackles in the young season, says he sees the sub-par performance as a learning experience and chance to get better going forward.
"It really shows you that you need to start fast and finish faster," Arndt said. "That's one thing coach Holgorsen preaches to us. If you can start a game fast it's easier to put down an opponent. They will start to get down on themselves and shoot themselves in the foot and that's the main thing to take away from this game. It's four quarters, not just one."
Starting fast was something the West Virginia defense did in its opener against Missouri. The Tigers' offense didn't pass the 50 yard line until the second quarter and could only manage three points against the Mountaineer's first team unit in the entire game. The Youngstown State game could have been somewhat of a hangover though, as the Mountaineers played lackadaisical and uninspired football on both sides of the football for the first two quarters of the game. Arndt described the mood at halftime when the Mountaineers were tied 14-14 with their FCS counterparts.
"There was definitely frustration," Arndt admitted. "But we knew it was on us and we knew if we played to our abilities than we would win. You saw that in the second half. Most of us were all saying, 'don't panic, keep your heads up, and play the way you know.'"
West Virginia came out of the locker room and outscored the Penguins 24-7. More importantly, West Virginia recaptured all of the momentum in the third quarter, which Dana Holgorsen referred to the best quarter of football the team has played in the early season. The ability to respond to an adverse situation is something that all good football teams are capable of, and it showed some character for the Mountaineers to keep their composure and take care of an over-matched Youngstown State team. But Arndt was correct in saying the slow starts just can't continue on either side of the ball, and that is especially true for Sep. 24's tilt against BYU, who is the most talented team the Mountaineers will play in its non-conference schedule
In Ty Detmer's offense the Cougars haven't had tremendous success in the vertical passing game. In fact, entering the third week of the season, BYU is the only team in the NCAA who has still not thrown a pass for 20 yards, but its short passing game and ability to nickel and dime a defense down the field can be very a frustrating style of play to defend against. The potential is there for the Mountaineers to give up some drives, but there are a few things they need to do in next week's contest to pull out victory: start fast, stay composed and respond to adversity. The hope is that Arndt was correct and the inexperienced Mountaineers defense learned the importance of doing all three after last week's contest. We will find out soon enough.