WVU football: Coordinator knew defense would be good
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Keith Patterson is either supremely confident or strikingly accurate, but West Virginia's defensive coordinator saw a lot of what happened in Saturday's loss to Oklahoma coming.
The Mountaineers gave up yards, especially against the run, but they made plays to end drives and allowed 10 points following two special teams mistakes that extended OU drives.
Patterson's players had done enough for WVU to win the game, which at WVU stands as a considerable contrast to everything that went wrong in 2012.
"I knew," Patterson said. "All you've got to do is watch the video. Three pass plays in the William & Mary game and if you take away the three big plays where we bite on a double cut, we give up 100 yards rushing and 100 yards passing.
"Our kids knew. I knew. We're a good defense. I knew we were going to be. I think we had a good plan. The kids got comfortable once they got into the flow of the game. We knew we were going to make it hard on them if we could stop the run and I felt like we did that early. And I thought if we could force some turnovers, there was no way we'd lose the game."
Possessions figured to be at a premium in a game with two offenses that would run the ball and search for big plays that might not come very often. The way Patterson pictured it, his defense could end OU possessions and give the offense extra chances.
"I told them Sunday if we forced four turnovers, we'd win the game," he said.
Sure enough, the Mountaineers forced four turnovers. They lost because the offense punted after two turnovers and turned it over after the other two. WVU had won 11 consecutive games when forcing four or more turnovers - but also averaged 39 points in those wins.
The last loss with four or more forced turnovers was at USF in 2007, when the Mountaineers committed six turnovers.
"Our kids, they knew it was going to be a hard-fought, physical game, but they had a great spirit the whole time, all the way to the very end, even when (the Sooners) were just kind of milking the clock," Patterson said. "We wanted to keep playing hard. They knew it was going to be a four-quarter battle, but I was very proud of them. The kids fought, even when they started to wear on us a little bit."
On a hot night when it was 96 degrees at kickoff and the defense lost key players to injuries, WVU hung around despite facing 57 runs on 78 snaps and enduring 34:26 on the field. The Mountaineers allowed 316 yards rushing, but 200 came from the middle of the third quarter and on. The Sooners rushed the ball on 27 of their 33 snaps after halftime and 20 of their final 22 plays.
The turnovers, though, were the results of both individual and effort and collective persistence.
Linebacker Isaiah Bruce raced down the field to catch a receiver at the end of a 32-yard gain to force a fumble. Safety Darwin Cook, who missed the tackle to spring that play, hustled to recover the fumble.
A drive later, linebacker Brandon Golson blitzed and hit quarterback Trevor Knight squarely in the back to force a fumble.
Cook's end-zone interception in the third quarter thwarted an 83-yard drive. Karl Joseph's interception one possession later came at WVU's 4-yard line after the Mountaineers threw an interception to give the ball back to OU.
Down 13-7, WVU ended up moving that ball to the OU 35 and looked like it had all the momentum when a short pass to Kevin White seemed to convert a third-and-20. White was hit from the side and lost a fumble.
"When we came out with the two key interceptions, that was big, and when we were moving the ball down the field there, I thought we were going to take the lead," Patterson said. "I told them, 'We're going to go back out there and we're going to be up a point.'"
WVU would force a punt and survive a series of special teams errors. Punt returner Mario Alford decided to fair catch the OU punt at his own 5.
Punter Nick O'Toole's 33-yard punt gave the Sooners the ball at the 38. Patterson's players came up with a three-and-out.
"The defense definitely played well enough for us to win," WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. "You can't win a game scoring seven points, I don't care who you're playing. If your defense holds a team like Oklahoma to 16 points, you should win the game."
Patterson's unit was besieged by injuries along the way. Bruce left the game in the second quarter and did not return. The spur was replaced in the base defense by K.J. Dillon, a safety who was being used extensively as a nickel back in pass defense packages against Oklahoma formations.
Dillon then left in the third quarter, which really scrambled the plan for Patterson. He played junior Wes Tonkery in the pass package and freshman Marvin Gross in the base package.
"We just kept playing defense," said Patterson, who said he didn't change his approach much even with the personnel problems. "Playing with a freshman, that's a pretty big stage to be playing a kid on the perimeter of your defense.
"When K.J. went down after Isaiah went down, it made things a little harder on us. They tried to run the ball at (Gross) some, so we had to mix some things up, but I thought Marvin, for being thrown into that particular situation, did all right with a tough task."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.