WVU football: Defense scrapped plan, then dominated TCU
FORT WORTH, Texas - In the moment, West Virginia's defense probably couldn't have envisioned a worse situation than trailing TCU 17-3 in Saturday's second quarter.
In retrospect, it was probably best thing to happen.
After falling behind by two scores and seeing his defense exploited by things he couldn't have anticipated, WVU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson scrapped his game plan and came up with something else. The adjustment worked as the Mountaineers allowed no points and only 138 yards while forcing three turnovers for 17 points on the next nine drives.
"Once we got down, I said, 'Forget it,'" Patterson admitted after the 30-27 win in overtime. "We started playing man and started bringing some pressure."
TCU was averaging fewer than three points in the first quarter against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents this season. The Horned Frogs had only scored three touchdowns and held two leads in the first quarter, but they kicked a field goal and scored a touchdown to lead 10-3 at the end of Saturday's first quarter.
A touchdown on the first drive of the second quarter put the Horned Frogs ahead 17-3 and equaled their point total from the previous two games.
Again and again, TCU picked on WVU with a pass play where quarterback Casey Pachall extended the ball for the running back and keep alive the possibility he'd hand it off until a defender had to react to the run and open a spot for a pass.
"They had a good plan," Patterson said. "As soon as our flat defender on the edge would come forward, (Pachall would) stick it in there. That's tough. I just said, 'Forget it, let's start blitzing.'"
The Mountaineers stopped playing zone coverage and peppered Pachall to get three sacks and force a fumble and an interceptions and a number of bad throws. Pachall, who hadn't started since breaking his left arm Sept. 7 and had only returned Oct. 26, started 13-for-17 for 170 yards and two touchdowns when TCU led 17-3. He finished 40-for-58 for 394 yards, three scores and two interceptions.
"We just executed much better once we got settled down and got a feel for him," Patterson said. "We didn't know what we were going to get. We hadn't seen him on film, really. You had to go all the way back to the LSU game (in the season-opener), and what LSU does defensively is completely different than us.
"Then he gets hurt against Southeast Louisiana, so we didn't have a body of work for what to expect. I just told the kids it was going to be a game of adjustments, but once we got our feet on the ground and started to figure out how they were attacking us, we made our adjustments and figured out how to attack them."
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WVU's OFFENSE made an equally meaningful adjustment in the second quarter. Its first four drives totaled 63 yards and only produced three points because linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski intercepted a pass defensive end Kyle Rose tipped on the first play of the game.
On the first play of the fifth drive, running back Charles Sims ran for 31 yards up the right side. WVU threw a play action pass for 27 yards to Mario Alford on the second play and Sims ran the same running play on the third snap for a 29-yard touchdown up the left side.
The running plays were part of a power scheme WVU uses frequently with an offensive guard leading the way on the outside. The Mountaineers hadn't used it against TCU until the offensive linemen and their coach, Ron Crook, agreed before the key series it would work.
"In the beginning of the game, they were slanting a little bit and playing a little soft trying to read (the runs) and go outside," center Pat Eger said. "We were like, 'Coach, run the power. Run the power.'"
WVU ended the game with 146 yards rushing on 36 carries, but counted 24 yards lost on three sacks. Before Sims' first long run, WVU had run the ball six times for 12 yards, and that included a nine-yard gain by Sims on the team's first snap.
Everything changed once WVU realized TCU's defensive tackles were moving left or right after the snap and the defensive line wasn't pushing the Mountaineers back after the snap.
"We knew they aren't huge fans of playing the run," tight end Cody Clay said. "They were slanting a lot of guys and leaving gaps open and we started pulling our guard around and kicking out. It worked out perfect for us. We gashed them and got on the safety."
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IN ADDITION to Kwiatkoski's interception, the Mountaineers forced three other turnovers in five snaps that bridged the third and fourth quarters. Three of the four turnovers were on the first play of a drive, the sixth, seventh and eighth time TCU has done that this season. The Mountaineers turned the four turnovers into 20 points, including 17 on the three rapid turnovers to take a 27-17 lead.
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STARTING RECEIVER Ronald Carswell did not play. He was suspended for a violation of team rules. Defensive end Dontrill Hyman (ankle) and safety Rick Rumph (foot) also missed the game, while linebackers Marvin Gross (groin) and Doug Rigg (concussion) and cornerback Daryl Worley (shin) played after sitting out previously.