Getting Defensive

Tomorrow's showdown with Virginia Tech will be all about defense.

Of course, the same could be said about this year's edition of the West Virginia Mountaineers. Through the season's first four games, this team has been built around the defense. Senior leaders like Mike Lorello, Ernest Hunter, and Jahmile Addae, among others, have made big play after big play for the defense all season. For the Mountaineers to have a chance on Saturday though, it will take a complete effort on the defensive side.

As has been documented several times, the 2005 Virginia Tech team could be the best team the Mountaineers have faced in several seasons. As a result, there will be a few "little things" to watch out for throughout Saturday's games. Among them is the ability to put the Hokie offense in third and long situations.

"That's huge," said head coach Rich Rodriguez. "They'll control the game if they're in any third and short situations, especially when you have a quarterback that's athletic. Also, I think it helps us control the tempo."

Tempo is always a key word in any Mountaineer game, and usually it has to do with the no-huddle spread offense attack employed by the Blue and Gold. Tomorrow though, the tempo on defense will be just as important.

"We're not as deep defensively, at least with experienced depth, as we'd like to be. If we're giving up a lot of long plays, and a lot of long drives then it's going to be really hard on our defense."

Given the talent of the Hokies defense, which is arguably the nation's best, it's reasonable to assume that the Mountaineers won't be able to control the game on offense.

"I'm not sure offensively that we can control this game," said Rodriguez. "In some games you can run the ball and have eight, 10, and 12 play drives. Not too many people have done that against the Hokies, so that's going to be a challenge in and of itself."

Still, the coach is confident in the play of his defense.

"We've played hard, and we've been a pretty active defense as far as guys making tackles, controlling the drives, and getting lots of three and outs. But this is a different test here, and our guys know that. We'll have to play a little bit better than we have been. We've played pretty good, but we're going to have to crank it up another notch."

To do that, they'll certainly have to contain Tech quarterback Marcus Vick. The junior signal caller is making a name for himself, and slowly but surely creeping out of the shadow of his famous older brother.

"He's running, gunning, and doing it all," said defensive tackle Ernest Hunter. "He's his own man. I don't want to compare him to his brother. He's doing what he can to be the best out there on that field."

The polite native of Burke, Va. is quick to point out that the VT offense isn't all about Vick, though.

"They're tough guys, all of them" he continues. "They do whatever they can, do what they do, to get the job done, and I respect that. We've got to be ready to do what we have to do at any cost."

For Hunter and his defensive running mates, that means staying out of long drives, and hopefully forcing a turnover or two. If the defense can hold its own, the Mountaineers will be that much closer to hoisting the Black Diamond Trophy for one final time.

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