Consistency Needed

The Mountaineer defense came up with some big plays on Saturday, but a lack of consistency allowed Maryland to score enough points to get away with the victory.

WVU's defense was put in some tough positions with the turnovers committed against the Terps, and they responded well in many of those situations.

The defense stopped Maryland after four of the six giveaways, and had no hand in one of the others, the Brad Lewis fumble that the Terp defense returned for a score.

The only time WVU gave up a score after a turnover was on a short 22 yard drive in the third quarter. For that performance, the defense deserves credit.

On the flip side, Maryland touchdown drives of 56, 80 and 81 yards exposed the problems the defense is having. The Terps rushed for 125 yards on those three drives, which is two-thirds of the 181 total yards they gained on the ground during the afternoon.

Going into the season, we were prepared for a defense that would make big plays, while giving up some in return due to the attacking nature of the defense. So far, that has run true to form. Opponents have gotten some big gains, but WVU has increased the number of negative yardage plays as well. The Mountaineers recorded eleven tackles for losses against the Terrapins.

The unexpectedcfactor has been the ability of opponents, on occasion, to run the ball for consistent gains during a drive. Maryland threw only four passes on those three sustained scoring drives, and was able to batter their way down the field.

So, what's happening here? First, WVU has faced some good backs in the form of William Green and Bruce Perry. These players are putting up yards on everyone, not just WVU. You have to give opponents some credit for making some plays.

Second, WVU's tackling has been in and out. Overall, it has improved, but it must continue to get better for the Mountaineers to shut down these sorts of sustained drives. A missed tackle that turns a one yard gain into a five yard gain can be just as critical as giving up a long pass.

Third, Mountaineer defenders still appear to be getting used to the intricacies of this defense. This is most evident in the number of incorrect angles that get taken against certain plays by defenders. For example, last year a linebacker or safety might take a certain angle from his position on the field to defend a sweep. After running from that defensive position for a couple of years, that angle becomes second nature.

Fast forward to this year - while a player might be playing the same position, he's starting from a different spot on the field, so his angle might be different. Instinct takes over, last year's angle is run, and the player might end up out of position.

None of this is to say that the defense, or for that matter, anyone on the team, isn't trying. The coaches have gone out of their way to praise the effort the squad is giving, and we agree. We don't see any signs of quit or give up on the 2001 Mountaineers.

The good news is that none of these problems are uncorrectable. We think WVU has the talent to run this defense successfully. It's simply a matter of executing the defensive scheme and making crisp tackles the first time out.

Unfortunately, the job doesn't get any easier, as the Mountaineers will face a string of talented backs and rushing games through the remainder of the schedule. For WVU to reach a bowl game, however, that improvement must occur.

Maryland's Bruce Perry goes low on a tackle by Rick Sherrod

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