The players flowed in and out with greater regularity than in West Virginia's first two games, and it's hard ro argue with the result. After yielding touchdowns on Colorado's first two offensive series of the game (the second covering just 28 yards due to an turnover), the West Virginia defense stiffened and kept the Mountaineers in the game. WVU gave up 11 yards on Colorado's first two drives, then allowed just 255 the rest of the way, covering 11 Buffalo possessions. In that mix were four consecutive drives without a CU first down. And although WVU did give up 78 plays, it was able to come up with big stops when necessary.
The action began up front, where starters Scooter Berry, Chris Nield and Pat Liebig were supplemented by Doug Slavonic, Larry Ford, Julian Miller and Zac Cooper. Slavonic saw extensive action, recording two tackles, while Miller had a pass breakup to thwart a CU drive.
Of course, one of the causes of the increased numbers came due to injury. When J.T. Thomas went down with a head injury on the game's second play, WVU was forced to employ John Holmes and Ovid Goulbourne in his place. Goulbourne played well, recording six tackles, while Holmes had a huge sack and a forced fumble on Colorado QB Cody Hawkins, which thwarted a Buffalo scoring drive.
That wasn't the only moving at linebacker, however. When Reed Williams was out, Ivy sometimes moved back into the center of the field. And although he didn't make a tackle, Najee Goode saw some time, including snaps on a critical fourth quarter Colorado offensive series.
On the back end, Eain Smith started at Free safety, but Robert Sands continued to increase his playing time, getting the majority of snaps in the second and third quarters. Brandon Hogan replaced Kent Richardson early at one cornerback, while Sidney Glover (10 tackles), Quinton Andrews (game high 15 stops), Boogie Allen and Nate Sowers also got time at spur and bandit.
That rotation was a big help, according the to thee senior Andrews.
When you are able to sub in guys during a drive, it helps you out a lot," he said. "It helps you keep fresh legs. And also guys just playing hard. It lets people go hard, because they know they have a backup. They know they have someone that can come in for them. It let us play hard for six seconds on every play like Coach Stew asked us to do."
Andrews' comments about substituting during drives, not just at the start of them, are telling. That is something that coaches such as defensive line mentor Bill Kirelawich has never been hesitant to do, and it looked to pay off very well for the Mountaineers against the Buffaloes. If a player was winded, or slightly dinged, he could come out and yield his spot to someone that was at 100%, without a fear of a great dropoff in performance.
Of course, one game doesn't make a season. West Virginia is not a shutdown defense yet. There is still confusion at times, especially in pass coverage against four- and five-wide sets, and the front did yield 4.2 yards per carry against the Buffaloes. However, the improvement across the the board defensively was apparent, and it gives the Mountaineers hope that Casteel's troops can continue to keep WVU in games in the future.