Defense could play big role in this weekend’s game


The Associated Press

West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin catches a touchdown pass during a game against Maryland in Morgantown, W. Va. Sept. 22. West Virginia won 31-21.

Sara Beth Purdy

This weekend’s game will be a tale of two offenses. With spurts of poor defensive production out of both West Virginia and Texas this season, this Saturday is likely to feature a stereotypical Big 12 shootout. Both Texas and West Virginia are tied for first in the Big 12 with one win apiece. Both teams also are undefeated with four wins on the season. The game against Texas will mark West Virginia’s first true road test of the season.

“They are good on all three sides of the ball,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said of Texas. “On all three sides of the ball, it is going to be a chore. When you couple that with being on the road for the first time this year, we obviously have our work cut out for us.”
The Mountaineers roll into Austin with one of the league’s top-ranked offenses, thanks in whole to the efforts of senior quarterback Geno Smith. Against Baylor, Smith put up Heisman quality numbers which included nearly 700 passing yards and an 88.2 percent completion rate. Last weekend’s contest was not an anomaly; Smith has completed 83.4 percent of his passes on the season and has yet to turn the ball over to the opposition.

By comparison, Texas quarterback David Ash has been producing healthy numbers as well. Ash has a season completion percentage of 78 percent with 10 touchdowns and one interception.

Smith’s favorite targets include junior Stedman Bailey and senior Tavon Austin, who have each caught for over 550 yards this season. Both were a huge factor against Baylor last weekend.

The Mountaineers’ impressive showing was against a Baylor defense that is ranked dead-last in the conference in most defensive categories including pass defense, scoring defense and total defense. Despite this defensive ineptitude, West Virginia has still earned double-digit victories in their previous three games.
West Virginia is a even a little shakier on defense than the Bears. The Mountaineer defense allowed 63 points against Baylor and continually blew coverage and failed to stop any member of the Baylor offense. By comparison, the Texas defense allowed the top ranked Oklahoma State offense just 36 points. Plus, the Texas defense is ranked highly in pass defense, which aligns well with West Virginia who ranks first in the nation when passing the ball.
“We have to get them better,” Holgorsen said of his defensive unit. “The front seven played well … they were disruptive at times when they were rushing the passer. We need a little bit more out of the defensive line when it comes to pressuring the quarterback. We gave up too many big plays on third down.”
The WVU defense is ranked second to last in all defensive categories. At Texas, despite a hoard of missed tackles and the inability to stop big plays, the defense has turned in better stats than West Virginia’s. The Longhorns also have had better play when backed up in the red zone. The game should come down to offense and which team can overcome the opposition’s defense more effectively.
“We play hard every week and go out there and compete. No matter who we are playing,” junior offensive lineman Pat Eger said.

Printed on Friday, October 5, 2012 as: Mountaineers set focus on tightening up defense