Peaking At The Right Time

After playing without key members of their unit for the majority of the season, the Mountaineer defense has finally been able to showcase their full potential with all of their players back -- and for the most part healthy -- for their last two games. That's made a huge difference according to linebacker J.T. Thomas.

"It's good to have the guys that you have been playing with for awhile on the field with you," said J.T. Thomas. "Anytime we can get Reed and Scooter back on the field with both of them being healthy, we are a lot better defense. We haven't had them in a couple of our past losses like down in South Florida and in Auburn. It's nice to have them back on the field with us."

Despite suffering the loss to Cincinnati, Thomas saw that game as a coming together for the Mountaineer defense. The benefits were just as apparent a week later, when WVU held a potent Pitt offense to just one touchdown in WVU's 19-16 win. The reunited squad came up big in the red zone and forced two turnovers to help WVU win the Backyard Brawl.

"It was a good win that we needed," said Thomas. "It was a hard-fought game. I'm glad we came out on the winning end this time. We can definitely use that momentum for Rutgers. We played a pretty solid game, especially if you take away [Pitt's late touchdown pass]. We would have held them to just about six points. We had a good outing."

After holding their opponents the last two weeks to the fewest points that they have scored all season, the Mountaineer defense can't help but think of how sweet it would be to be able to pimprove on those showings in the final game of the regular season. Rutgers has shown the ability to move the ball both through the air and on the ground, and as such has the respect of the West Virginia defense. Still, that doesn't keep the defense from aiming high.

"It's good to get a goose egg [shut out] but I don't sweat it," said Thomas. "I'm just trying to get wins. We looked really good last week. If we play like that again and maybe even a little bit better, we could possibly get a shut out."

Freshman defensive back Mohamed Sanu will be used as both a threat on offense and defense. The Rutgers have been using the 6'2" 215 pound player in the back field to run the wildcat offense, which is something that the defense has been preparing for by using defensive back Courtney Stuart to act as Sanu in practices.

"[Sanu's] pretty good," said Thomas. "He's a good athlete. He's a young guy, real tough, real stout. He can run over people. He's an all around guy. He used to play quarterback in high school so he has the ability to throw the ball when you're not expecting it. They use him a lot. He will be a big part of their game plan this Saturday."

As the regular season comes to a close, many people's minds have already wandered onto posts season and bowl games. While the players are just an anxious as fans to find out where they will be spending their late December/early January, they realize that there is still a very important game to be played on Saturday.

"We know that beating Rutgers will put us in the best situation possible for a bowl game," said Thomas. "We want to get this win. It's as simple as that. Everybody knows that this is an important game for our season right here. It's the difference in going 8-4 or 9-3. 9-3 looks a lot better than 8-4 if you ask me. We need to go out and get the job done because it will be a nice cap to our season."

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