Although West Virginia's defense didn't play poorly by any means in the first half of last Saturday's contest with Kansas State, it played what could be its best football of the year in the second half when it held the Wildcats to just three points and regularly got the better of KSU quarterback Jesse Ertz. The defense's strong second half showing was instrumental in shifting momentum back to the Mountaineers and giving the offense enough time to work out the kinks and finally find a rhythm in the fourth quarter. Free safety Jeremy Tyler, one of the veterans in the Mountaineers' secondary, credited some of the adjustments the unit made in the locker room and the different mindset that the unit held in the final two quarters of play.
"Going into halftime we knew we had to step up," Tyler said. "We told ourselves this is our half and we had to do what we had to do.We came together as a complete team and finished the job. Going into half we had to make some adjustments and everyone was focused going into half so we came out firing."
A big part of those adjustments was defensive coordinator Tony Gibson getting back to his roots and calling an aggressive, blitz-heavy game. That blitzing slowed down KSU's running game and flustered Wildcat quarterback Jesse Ertz for the better part of the afternoon.
"Once we get the quarterback rattled, that plays into our favor," Tyler said. "Once we get into the quarterback's head then everything else starts to go well."
The Mountaineers also showed a myriad of pre-snap looks that forced Ertz to use all three of the Wildcats timeouts, something that made it impossible for KSU to stop the clock when West Virginia got the ball back with roughly two minutes remaining. Tyler felt that showing Ertz some different looks and disguising coverages played just as much of a factor as the blitz did in rattling the sophomore quarterback.
"Coach Gibby was very hard on disguising the coverage," Tyler said. "The quarterback looks at the safeties and the linebackers to check the reads and see what he has so I thought that had a big factor."
And one last factor that Tyler credited was the crowd of over 61,000 blue and gold clad West Virginia fans who came out to support the Mountaineers and (for the most part) stayed until the final seconds came off the clock and it was time to sing Country Roads.
"(The crowd) did a great job," Tyler said. "We fed off of the crowd, they gave us great energy and we had a get a 'W' for the fans."
The Mountaineers were able to get that win much to the delight of the sellout crowd who striped the stadium, and those in attendance will look back on the game as possibly the best defensive effort the Mountaineers have put forward since it rattled Bryce Petty and Baylor in 2014.