Beleaguered WVU defense improved a little against TCU
MORGANTOWN -- Something needed to be done last week before the West Virginia University football team played TCU.
West Virginia was allowing 53 points per game against Big 12 Conference opponents and the Mountaineers were ranked last nationally in pass defense.
Some changes were made defensively during a bye week and for most of Saturday's game they worked, although TCU won, 39-38 in double overtime.
"They responded to all the criticism and scrutiny they've been under," said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. "They practiced hard and got better. They did everything we tried to accomplish over the course of the past two weeks."
West Virginia (5-3, 2-3 Big 12) plays again Saturday, a 3:30 p.m. game at Oklahoma State (5-3, 3-2) that is being televised on ABC.
Perhaps the biggest change came when co-defensive coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson switched places. After spending the first seven games up in the booth, Patterson coached from on the field while DeForest moved up to the press box.
"I loved it," DeForest said. "In 23 years of coaching I had never been up in the box before, and I don't think I'll ever leave. I could see the big picture. I was calm making calls and I think that had a lot to do with how we played (tonight).
"We gave up some plays we shouldn't have, but in the big picture we got better. And that's all you can ask for."
West Virginia also made a couple of personnel changes on the field that had a big impact on the way the defense played. Cecil Level and Ishmael Banks received their first starts in the secondary and responded well with five and four tackles respectively. Level, who switched from cornerback to safety, also forced a fumble.
"As long as you give effort and you play hard and you attack the football, then you can play here," DeForest said.
Of the 31 points TCU scored in regulation, the Horned Frogs got seven from a fumble recovery for a touchdown after a bad snap on a WVU punt deep in its own territory and scored again on a quick strike after getting good field position after a Geno Smith interception.
The biggest blow to the WVU defense came at the end of regulation when TCU struck for a 94-yard touchdown pass from Trevone Boykin to Josh Boyce to send the game into overtime.
It was the third time the Mountaineers have given up a long touchdown at the end of a half.
"A lot of things happened in that game that could have swayed it either way," DeForest said. "We had an opportunity to win the game several times and we didn't. We had the game won, all we've got to do is stay in coverage.
"It's a lack of focus. We've got to do a better job of getting them to understand the situation and it was something we had done right the last two weeks (in practice). That's on us for not harping on it even more. But ultimately they've got to do what they're supposed to do."
But even with how well the personnel changes worked against TCU, the Mountaineers understand there are no moral victories and a loss is a loss no matter how they look at it.
"All the stats that we came up with as a unit is good and all, but if you don't come out with the only stat that counts, it doesn't matter," said redshirt freshman linebacker Isaiah Bruce.