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WVU defense is better-ish

November 4, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

MORGANTOWN - They called it a success.

Certainly not the end, but the effort from a defense that had been taking its lumps for the better part of two months.

Yes, West Virginia lost again (39-38), and yes, the defense wound up giving up 39 points, but there were signs of improvement all over the place from one of the nation's most maligned units.

Ultimately, the players simply played better than they had, but defensive coordinator Joe DeForest was talking about the big picture.

And who could argue with him? Head coach Dana Holgorsen ordered a switch with his co-defensive coordinators, putting DeForest in the press box and bringing Keith Patterson on the field for the game.

From that view, you can see half of the city, much less all of the field.

"In the big picture," DeForest said, "we got better. If you get better every day, then things are going to build."

It was the first time in 23 years of coaching DeForest coached from the box.

"I loved it," he said. "I thought I was calm. It's so surreal up there. I don't think I'll ever leave. I could see what was going on in the secondary, which is the most important thing. I was calm making plays. And I think that had a lot to do with how we played."

What DeForest saw was guys getting pressure on the quarterback. They had three sacks, forced a pair of fumbles, got six three-and-outs, and picked off a pass in the red zone.

"That's good defense," DeForest said. "It was probably the best game we played defensively as a whole. It just doesn't look that way (because of the loss)."

The three-and-outs were significant. Kansas State scored on all but one possession in the last time the WVU defense was seen on the field attempting to get off of it. TCU was 4 of 17 on third down in this one.

Still, it wasn't good enough. There were still occurrences in which you could tell things hadn't changed that dramatically, none more reprehensible than the 94-yard touchdown pass the Mountaineers gave up with 1:28 left that allowed TCU to tie it at 31-31 and ultimately send it into overtime.

It was a repeat of what we saw before halftime of the Baylor game. What we saw before halftime at Texas Tech.

"We just busted a coverage," DeForest said. "It was a lack of communication. We had the game won. All we had to do was stay in coverage. The problem, you can't give up the big one. As well as you play throughout 60 minutes, that's what we've got to continue to work off of."

Still, how does this keep happening?

"Lack of focus," DeForest said. "We've got to do a better job of getting them to understand the situation. It was something that we've done right all of the last two weeks (in practice). We've never made that mistake and we made that mistake. That's on us for not harping on it even more. Ultimately, they have to do what they have to do, but we have to coach them better to make sure do."

Holgorsen, who wasn't happy about much, liked what he saw from the defenders.

"I thought they played good," Holgorsen said. "They responded to all the criticism and scrutiny that they've been under. They practiced hard for two weeks and got better."

So at the end of the day, giving up 39 points and 405 yards is not much to write home about. Unless you've been where the Mountaineers defense was.

Steubenville's Shaq Petteway did this regularly in high school.

On Saturday, he introduced his game to West Virginia fans.

Petteway led the Mountaineers with 10 tackles and was in on 1.5 sacks, including one for a 10-yard loss on a third-and-6 play late in the first quarter. It was the first sack of his career.

Defensive coordinator Joe DeForest suspected a guy like Petteway was well-suited to make plays against TCU because of what it does on offense, so he unleashed his sophomore.

"We were counting on Shaq versus what they did offensively. We needed him on the field more," DeForest said. "We gave him an opportunity to play. We've moved him around from Star to Buck to Will linebacker and he did a good job of adjusting."

At times, Petteway looked like he was playing against Sir Wilfrid Laurie.

"The coaches came to me and they challenged me so I took advantage of my opportunity I was given," Petteway said. "I just went out there and tried to make plays. I think I did that."

Still, it wasn't enough, as the Mountaineers lost their third in a row, this one on a two-point conversion play in overtime.

"It's a hard one to swallow," Petteway said. "I feel like we should have won it multiple times throughout the game. I'd rather get blown out than lose like that."

 
 

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