More Insights From West Virginia's Defensive Effort Against BYU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - When West Virginia's players and coaches arrived back here in Morgantown, the first order of business was to review the game. We at did much the same.

And the findings are far better than what one would think upon an immediate analysis of play. Too often in the heat of the moment, plays are magnified far beyond their actual influence. In a quick game watch review, West Virginia's issues late were engulfed by both passion and the desire to see the Mountaineers finish well. Sure, there's still little to mount a counter argument for the bad snap late that could have cost the game. But after viewing the broadcast of the contest, it wasn't as ill as this writer thought during the game action.

WVU, in fact, was in position to salt away this neutral site contest multiple times. There remain issues, as even defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said, in both coverage and pass protection, along with aspects of linebacker play. But the perceived meltdown wasn't quite as bad as it appeared in real time. WVU's offense was quite effective late and was simply stopped just 12 feet shy of the goal line by the communication issue. The defense continued to run much of what it had in stopping BYU early, and again stifled the late Cougar drives with turnovers. It was perhaps best encompassed by the above remarks by defensive line coach Bruce Tall, who noted with a level head that Brigham Young does indeed have talent and athletes, and makes plays itself. 

The pure broadcast look - the overhead 22 angle isn't available to those other than coaches - showed the Mountaineers in a bit better light. Head coach Dana Holgorsen was both as pleased and displeased with portions of play as one would expect. But the bottom line was that West Virginia made mistakes, but was also able to overcome them well, and save a handful of plays could have won in a more convincing fashion. Above, Tall details his thoughts on the play of the front three, while also being complimentary of a Brigham Young offense that was starting to find itself, and was able to manufacture yardage late. Tall also made perhaps the most true statement.

"Their quarterback is really talented," Tall said. "He did a really nice job and he makes big plays and keeps plays alive. We have to affect the quarterback. I give him a lot of credit, but we have to affect him more, no question. We will fix those things. You can fix mistakes. You can't fix losses."

And that's the game in a nutshell. The drive to win, and to have that victory hang in the balance, often complicates the viewing of the contest. Such was true in this one, when it seemed WVU had greater issues toward the end than were warranted. The Mountaineers were better than BYU on two of three sides consistently enough where the game shouldn't have been in doubt. But when it was, the same two sides did enough to pocket another win and seal an unbeaten nonconference finish and set-up an imperative clash with Kansas State.

"They made some adjustments and did things they had not done in other games to try and scheme us up," Tall said. "We made some adjustments at halftime trying to stay one step ahead. They had a good plan in place and we have some things we need to fix."

Which is as fair a statement as one will find. West Virginia surrendered major yardage to an ever-improving offense and yet was able to come away with a victory by making key plays. The Mountaineers forced four turnovers, including three interceptions - two of which helped nail down the win. There was also the forced fumble of BYU running back Jamaal Williams, his first lost fumble in a storied four-year career spanning 568 carries. Add in Rasul Douglas' 54-yard return of a pick for a touchdown, and the WVU defense was solid, if not spectacular. 

"I thought they played hard. That was one positive thing," Gibson said. "We played hard, played physical. But we made some mental mistakes. We did play with some energy. I thought the guys flew around. We rotated the 'backers, got the whole secondary in. All the line played. You get a win anyway you can get it and continue to get these guys experience that will just help us down the road in the Big 12. 

"Obviously we are not anywhere where we need to be to win the Big 12 or even compete in the Big 12. But we'll go back and look at our mistakes and get these guys going. Saturday, Mountaineer Field at 3:30, K-State has been our nemesis, so we shouldn't have any trouble getting these guys going."

Check out the immediate review by Tall and, below, linebacker Sean Walters, who never wavered in key moments. Walters was, in fact, called upon to settle the defense with his experience and senior leadership. The fifth-year player noted that in those instances where the game is undecided, it's far better to focus upon what one can do to control the outcome, and not the previous issues which created such circumstances. 

"There's always a sense of urgency," Walters said. "But we have the offense's back and they have ours. We came out and showed that and got the W. That's all the coaches have talked about all summer is finishing. The results showed. I just told the team to be ready. You knew they were going to make plays and they did. We expect that. Keep your cool and play the next play and something good will happen and it did as we finished on an interception. 

"Stay focused and on track now. We aren't even half way to where we are supposed to be. We still have a lot to improve on. I'm proud of our team and where we are at, but we still have a lot more to do and we will make sure we do that in the coming weeks."


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