Heading Home

Like many of his teammates, Mountaineer linebacker Mortty Ivy will be heading home tomorrow night when West Virginia travels to Pitt. Ivy's road back home, though, has had a few more bumps than he likely expected to have.

Ivy was a standout quarterback/safety at Gateway High in Monroeville, Pa. While being recruited by West Virginia, Mortty knew that his days behind center would be coming to an end after his final game for the Gators. The Mountaineers liked Ivy as a safety prospect. Not long after he arrived, though, the coaching staff began tinkering with the thought of moving him up to linebacker. The change was made, and as a redshirt freshman, Mortty saw playing time on special teams, third down situations, and even a little bit on defense.

Heading into spring practice, he was slotted behind rising senior Boo McLee at the Will (weakside) linebacker spot. During spring drills, though, Ivy went down with a torn ACL. Many thought he would be a non-factor during the 2006 season, but less than a year later, he's back out on the field making plays for the Mountaineers.

During Saturday's game against Cincinnati, Ivy got his most extensive defensive playing time of the season. He responded well, racking up seven tackles, finishing just behind McLee's team high of nine.

"It felt great to be back out there a lot. Each game throughout the year, I've been getting reps here and there just to get my feet wet again," explained the sophomore. "(Against Cincinnati) I played a lot, so I guess they have the confidence to throw me in there and keep me in."

So, how did the linebacker rate his overall performance on Saturday?

"I made a few mistakes here and there, but at the same time nobody's going to have a perfect game," he said. "I played fairly well, I thought. I was just trying to do my best and help the team when they needed me."

The defense as a whole played much better than they did in the previous game, a 44-34 loss to Louisville on November 2. Ivy hopes that Saturday's game will prove to be an indicator of things to come for the rest of the season.

"We made a big step, but now we have to take another step. We can't just be a one-game wonder. We've got to keep improving, and play even harder this week than we did last week," said the Communications major. "The line was making plays, the linebackers were making plays, and the secondary was making plays. Now, we have to be able to do that every game."

To be successful against the Panthers, Ivy and his defensive teammates must find a way to slow down Pitt's passing attack. The key to doing so is getting in the face of Pitt senior quarterback Tyler Palko.

"We've got to figure out a way to stop him, and then go from there. If you give him time, he's going to pick you apart. If we can get pressure on him, make him run around, and get him out of the pocket then we'll be able to make some plays."

Making plays starts with playing hard on every snap. Playing behind McLee, the sophomore has learned the importance of that virtue first-hand.

"He plays full-speed on every play," observed Boo's understudy. "He'll never quit, and he'll never take a play off. I've learned from him that if you play hard on every play, you'll be successful."

As for his surgically repaired knee, it appears to be back to full health.

"The knee's fine. I just have to ice it down every once in a while because running around and lifting a lot it gets fatigued from time to time."

Tomorrow night, Ivy will take the field hoping to help the Mountaineers get one step closer to yet another Big East championship. Like many of his 'Burgh-area teammates, he'll have plenty of friends and family there to watch.

"Playing in front of my hometown will be really exciting," said Ivy, who admits that he didn't really follow the Backyard Brawl until he got to West Virginia.

With the obstacles he's cleared over the past year, this is no doubt one business trip that Mortty Ivy is happy to take.

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