WVU football: Defense taking after Patterson's personality
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - As if the action on the field isn't enough to occupy Keith Patterson, West Virginia's defensive coordinator tracks a conflict that goes on inside his head throughout every game.
"I try to keep a clear mind, but that's the hardest thing about being on the field - sometimes I get caught up in the emotion," he said.
With Saturday's 30-21 victory over then-No. 11 Oklahoma State finally secured by one more marquee moment by the defense, Patterson could no longer help himself and tried to touch the sky.
"I think I may have hurt my knee on that one," he said.
It's Patterson and his urges that have helped WVU's defense make its jump this season.
This is not a dominant outfit, but it is far from the defense that was undressed so frequently last season and it follows Patterson's personality and the coach's internal combat. He'll do battle again Saturday in a game (Fox Sports 1, 8 p.m.) at No. 17 Baylor (3-0). The Bears lead the nation in scoring offense, total offense and passing offense.
"Sometimes I have to really temper that emotion," Patterson said. "I get a little too aggressive at making calls. But I always try to keep a clear mind and keep playing. I always try to think forward about adjustments I have to make the next three or four series."
His aggressive emotions and tactics do help the Mountaineers, who already have nine sacks after finishing with just 23 last season and nine quarterback hurries after only 11 in 2012.
Not coincidentally, WVU has eight interceptions, which is just two below last season's total, and 37 tackles for a loss, which is 14 more than the 2012 total.
Yet there's a bad side to it that Patterson is still refining, though that's also happening in his first season in charge of the Mountaineers with a slew of new players and starters and as he deals with injuries on the defensive line and at linebacker.
Oklahoma State managed 21 points in 19 possessions and only once broke the WVU defense. That came in the first quarter on a 73-yard touchdown pass on a middle screen from J.W. Walsh to Josh Stewart.
It was the perfect set of circumstances for the Cowboys.
"That was my fault," Patterson said. "I got a little bit aggressive with the linebackers and they got sling-shotted out the field side and overran it. By the time they got back, (Oklahoma State had) already gotten vertical. That was probably not a very smart call."
Yet Patterson's attacking style worked a short time later, too. WVU was playing a Cover 2 defense with man-to-man coverage underneath two safeties. Cornerback Ishmael Banks stayed with his receiver and was in the neighborhood of Walsh's poor pass to a different receiver. He returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown.
On what turned out to be the game's decisive sequence, WVU was protecting its end zone and a 24-21 lead in the fourth quarter by crowding the line scrimmage, which left the corners alone outside.
Safety Darwin Cook and Doug Rigg combined to make a tackle on the goal line on first down, cornerback Travis Bell was trusted to bat down a pass on a fade route on second down and defensive end Dontrill Hyman made a tackle for a five-yard loss on third down before the Cowboys missed a field goal.
"That's just my nature," Patterson said. "I like to be aggressive with corners, and not necessarily always in man coverage. We play a lot of man, but we also play a lot of zone, but even in zone concepts, I like to be aggressive with how we hug up on them. I'm not big on covering grass. I like to hug up on those receivers and make that quarterback execute."
While Patterson likes to pressure the quarterback, he really likes to vary the attack. Outside linebacker Brandon Golson and defensive end Will Clarke both have three sacks and Clarke has played all over the defensive line. Kyle Rose, a defensive end who played some nose guard against the Cowboys, and middle linebackers Doug Rigg and Nick Kwiatkoski all have one sack.
WVU has also blitzed safeties, cornerbacks and the extra defensive backs in nickel and dime packages.
It produces sacks or hasty quarterback decisions, but also negative yardage rushing plays. By already eclipsing last season's total tackles for a loss, the Mountaineers have produced 166 lost yards rushing, just about half of the 2012 total.
"He's pretty aggressive," Clarke said. "There are certain times in the game he just lets it go, but that's a good thing for the guys up front, especially myself. I like that. I like to play in the backfield."
Those players have pressure on themselves, too. Blitzers know they have a brief amount of time to make a play as the defensive backs play aggressive on their own and try to cover the receivers without much help.
"In my mind, I'm thinking, 'Get there,'" Clarke said. "The average offensive play is over in 2.5 to 3 seconds. It's very hard for a person to run somewhere very fast in 2.5 to 3 seconds. So I'm thinking, 'Get there.' I know myself and the other defensive linemen, we strain hard to try to get there and try to buy some time for the guys in the back end."
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WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said junior Paul Millard was the only healthy quarterback at Sunday's practice. Redshirt freshman Ford Childress has a torn pectoral muscle and junior Clint Trickett, who won in his first WVU start Saturday, injured his right shoulder late in the game.
Holgorsen said before he decided on a starter that he needed to see how the quarterbacks reacted when the Mountaineers return to practice today.
"Fortunately, we've played all three of them," he said. "I will evaluate how they do (today), Wednesday and Thursday and make a decision on who it's going to be."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.