Key Moment: West Virginia - Western Michigan

West Virginia's defense turned up the pressure on Western Michigan. The resulting collapse earns our BlueGoldNews.com Key Moment honors.

The No. 6 Mountaineers, ahead 14-6, were battling the Broncos – who strung together a scoring drive to pull within one before allowing superback Steve Slaton's 50-yard catch-and-run. Head coach Bill Cubit turned to his offense for a bit of ball control and movement to get WMU out of the shadow of its own goal line.

Quarterback Tim Hiller's first pass to tailback Brandon West was stuffed by linebacker John Holmes for a five-yard loss. A second-and-15 clipping penalty made it second-and-20. Western Michigan held on third down, and the ball, once at the 20-yard line, was on the Bronco seven after a trio of plays that netted minus-13 yards. Another penalty – this a facemask – on the punt led field position inside WMU territory. Quarterback Pat White's 38-yard touchdown run made it 21-6, and the now broken Broncos continue their dearth of flags, getting caught once for a delay of game and once for a false start.

When cornerback Antonio Lewis intercepted Hiller to end the possession, it was clear that Western Michigan could not move the ball against West Virginia when it counted. WVU built the edge to 28-6 after another corner turnover, this time a recovery of a West fumble by Larry Williams, and only a late drive kept WMU from averaging little more than six feet per play. But by then, the combination of pure speed and the swarming nature of the 3-3-5 odd stack had taken its toll, both in terms of offensive execution and a defensive throttling that shutdown the Western running game.

The Mountaineers allowed West just nine yards on 10 carries and, at the break, the Broncos had mustered just 16 yards on 20 rushes. It was a through domination of a unit expected to be able to move the ball and control clock versus WVU. The Broncos did have a 19:08 to 10:52 advantage in time of possession and a 43-26 edge in time of possession. But that stemmed much more from West Virginia's quick-strike ability than anything the Broncos actually did.

The final tallies were even more encouraging. West Virginia allowed an average of one yard – three feet – per run. It was 32 yards on 32 snaps and nothing more.

"I thought it was a pretty good effort for the first game," head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "The execution was ok. We had some missed assignments and we certainly weren't perfect, but I felt the intensity was good and the crowd was great. That's a pretty good ball club and they played pretty hard. We took a good shot from them and our guys got it done. We can play better, but we will take it and move on.

"(But) you look at third down, eight of 19. The third and mediums and third and longs are giving us problems. There were times we were close to making plays. I told the team we were close to making a lot of plays, especially on defense. We just needed someone to strain a bit harder to make that play. I am not particularly pleased with how we played defensively, though I do think we played hard and tackled well. People want to say it's the secondary, but you have to get a pass rush on people. Pass defense is a byproduct of a lot of things, all the guys on defense."


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