WVU’s defense faces toughest challenge to date

WVU’s defense faces toughest challenge to date

WVU Football

WVU’s defense faces toughest challenge to date

David Long Jr. (11) jogs into the end zone during pregame warm ups on Saturday, September 22, 2018.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–West Virginia’s defense shined against Kanas State last Saturday but Tony Gibson’s dawgs will have a tougher test this Saturday when the Mountaineers travel to Lubbock, Texas.

Texas Tech (3-1) has one the most explosive offenses in the nation and it is definitely the best that WVU (3-0) has faced so far.

Against Oklahoma State last weekend, the Red Raiders scored 41 points on 384 total yards of offense.

True freshman quarterback Alan Bowman has dominated in his three starts, throwing for 1,557 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has thrown just two interceptions.

“He doesn’t hold the ball long enough to see,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. “He gets it out quick and does a really good job of it. I think they’ve only given up four sacks on the year. So, they’re not going to let you hit their quarterback.”

Texas Tech leads the country in passing offense (435.8 yards per game) and total offense (632.5 yards per game).

“They went really, really, really fast,” Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We have to be prepared for that. It’s different than what Kansas State did against us — or Youngstown or Tennessee. That’s what they’ve decided they’re going to be, which is why they’re running 95 snaps a game. You’ve heard a lot of people talk about tempo. If you’re not very good and you do it, it kills you. If you’re good at it, it’s hard on defenses and they’re executing.”

Kenny Bigelow (40) and Kenny Robinson (2) celebrate a big defensive stop in the second half of WVU’s 35-6 win over Kansas State on Saturday, September 22, 2018.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

Currently, WVU leads the Big 12 in total defense and scoring defense.

The Mountaineers are first in the FBS ranks in points allowed (12.3 per game), 62ndin rushing yards allowed (145.0 per game), 44thin passing yards allowed (193.0 per game) and 41stin total yards allowed (338.0 per game).

Last week the defense allowed just six points (two field goals) from the Wildcats.

A huge part of WVU’s success has been due to its talented defensive line.

“Hopefully, we can pressure the quarterback,” Holgorsen said. “They’re doing a really good job of getting things out quick, and it makes it hard to pressure the quarterback when that’s going on. So, we have to take some of the easy stuff away from them, and I’m anxious to watch this (defensive) line. Let’s see if we’re as good as we think we are right there and pressure those guys and try to get the quarterback to make some mistakes.”

While the Red Raiders passing game is dangerous, the ground game cannot be taken lightly.

“I feel like their passing game is really good but their running backs are not to be slept on,” defensive end Ezekiel Rose said. “I feel like their running backs are really good and very versatile. They just have some really good receivers. So, I feel like we’re just going to have to step our game up a bit more.”

Reese Donahue (46) celebrates a defensive stop in WVU’s win over Kansas State on Saturday, September 22, 2018.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

Since their loss to Ole Miss in the season opener, Texas Tech’s up-tempo offense has been nearly unstoppable.

“Winning first down is one of the things we are emphasizing in practice,” Rose said. “If you win first down, there’s a greater chance you’ll win the whole series.”

So what do the Mountaineers need to do to slow down Texas Tech’s offense?

“What we have to do is win up front,”Gibson noted. “That’s easy to say, but it’s a lot harder to do when you only have three down. This week is probably not going to be a time where you see four down, just because of what they do and their personnel groupings.”

At times WVU’s defense has given up big plays, which is something they must limit from here on out.

Kenny Bigelow (40) celebrates WVU’s 35-6 victory over Kansas State on Saturday, September 22, 2018.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

“We got to eliminate big plays and win on first downs,” safety Dravon Askew-Henry said. “If we do that, I feel like we are a great defense. It’s hard to move the ball on us.”

If the Mountaineers get up on the Red Raiders, it is important for them not to slack off at any point.

“When we have gotten up by 20 points, I have seen that we start to play lackadaisical,” Askew-Henry added. “We need to start having that same chip come into the second half every play. I feel that if we do that going into next week, then we’ll be all good.”

Kickoff is scheduled for noon (ET) on Saturday from AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock. ESPN2 will televise the game.

Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS

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