WACO, Texas -- West Virginia's defense is doing something extremely interesting and no less important that explains its improvement so far this season. The Mountaineers are ranked No. 36 among the 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in scoring defense, No. 37 in total defense and No. 31 in pass defense. We'll save the hauntings for the end of the month and simply say that in 2012, WVU wasn't near any of those numbers.
It's why the Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) enter Saturday's 8 p.m. game against No. 17 Baylor convinced they won't be overwhelmed by what the Bears (3-0) do on offense.
Kickoff is at Floyd Casey Stadium is at 8 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.
"We're not looking to contain them," safety Darwin Cook said. "We're looking to stop them."
Again, WVU has a chance because it does something that makes all of the success make sense. It's not way defensive coordinator Keith Patterson's 3-4 morphs to a 4-3 or a 3-3-5. It's not the attacking blitzes or the refusal to play quarters coverage.
It's not playing 190-pound freshman Marvin Gross as a blitzer who interior offensive linemen can't touch, nor is it playing his safeties as cornerbacks and his cornerbacks as safeties from time to time.
It's that WVU is never surprised because of Patterson.
"I feel like he knows what to call in every situation," cornerback Ishmael Banks said. "He just knows what the offense is going to run. He does a lot of film study." A year ago, the Mountaineers would admit after some losses that they saw things in the game they never saw before it. Part of that was part of the indoctrination to the Big 12 and part of it was using so many first-time and first-year players who maybe didn't fully understand how to get ready for a game, but part of it was also coaching.
You now never hear the Mountaineers say they were shocked by what the opponent did. In the first game, Cook sealed the win against William & Mary with an interception, but that limits the significance of the play. Patterson told Cook all week that if the Tribe used these players and lined up like this, then he needed to line up there because he could sneak in under the receiver's route and pick off a pass.
It happened exactly as Patterson promised.
And ask yourself if last week the Mountaineers looked at all startled by what the Cowboys were doing on offense. There was a 73-yard touchdown, but Patterson said he cost his team seven points by blitzing from the same side of the field where the screen started.
There was a touchdown pass to a slot receiver in the middle of the field, but Cook probably should have tackled the receiver inside the 5-yard line. There was a clever pass to a fullback out of the three-back formation, the sort of thing WVU never does with the same set. It went for a touchdown, but there was also a linebacker pulled out of position by a play action pass.