Tale of two halves for Mountaineer defense
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Declare WVU safety Terence Garvin a symbol of the Mountaineer defense's effort in a 37-31 Saturday victory here over Maryland.
He started off strong, snatching a pass away from Terrapin receiver Kevin Dorsey and returning it 37 yards for a touchdown. His day soured somewhat toward the end, when he rolled his knee. But in the end, Garvin - and the Mountaineer defense - survived nicely.
WVU's defense looked strong in the first half, allowing the hosts to convert but 3-of-9 third-down opportunities and giving up just one touchdown. In the end, the Mountaineers allowed 477 yards of offense.
However, safety Eain Smith intercepted a wild pass of Terps QB Danny O'Brien to end a potentially lethal Maryland drive and effectively seal a Mountaineer victory.
"I was thinking, 'Catch it. End the game. Go home,''' Smith said.
"That was huge," said linebacker Najee Goode. "That was real big. They really weren't doing any drop-back passing early in the game. At the end, coming with that play, was real big. It was exactly what we needed. We needed a turnover or a stop."
They got both and the victory.
Smith shared his perspective of the game-winner.
"We checked to a coverage and I sold another coverage," said the 5-foot-11 senior. "The quarterback didn't read it right. I was in the right place at the right time."
Much like Garvin - and the WVU defense - in the first half.
"We played really good in the first half," Garvin said. "We came out excited, really motivated. Our coach was pumped up."
The 6-3 junior from Baltimore was, as well, after his interception for a touchdown.
"It felt great," he said. "Coming back home ... my mom actually told me this morning, 'You're going to get one. I can feel it.' I got one. I'm happy."
That waned somewhat at the end, when Garvin was hurt.
"It's my knee, it got kind of rolled up on," he said. "It felt kind of weird. It hurt. They said it was a bruise. I'm going back to West Virginia and really find out."
There are other concerns too. Like WVU's second-half defensive performance.
"We just didn't play like us," Garvin said. "We weren't attacking, we weren't coming down hill. We weren't flying around like we were in the first half."
"We came out flat," Smith said. "It was a little on us. They weren't doing anything special. We just came out flat, made it a game."
Two of the team's leaders - Goode and Julian Miller - expounded.
"In the second half, [Maryland] made some adjustments," Goode said. "We have a lot of stuff to still work on. They came out and ran the football like they weren't doing in the first half.
"It wasn't like we came out lackadaisical or anything. They just kept getting us on certain things. We adjusted to it late. That [tailback Davin] Meggett, he was making cuts, doing all the right stuff to get through blocks and the line of scrimmage. That's something we need to work on as a defense."
Meggett had 39 rushing yards in the first half and finished with 113.
"Honestly, as a team, we got a little complacent," Miller said. "That's something we can't do, looking on down the road. The offense was hitting on all cylinders. Defensively, we were playing well in the first half.
"We came out with the same mindset [in the second half], we just weren't making the same plays."
Miller pointed inward.
"It wasn't really that they were doing anything different," said the defensive lineman. "They were just going to things they saw working in the first half. They went to those schemes and plays more often."
He went back to the topic of rush defense.
"We as a defense need to buckle down, because we're a run-first, pass-second defense," Miller said. "We need to remember that and stop the run better. We got complacent. We didn't figure they would come out and run the ball in the second half. But they did, and had success. That's something we have to work on."
There were 167 plays between the teams Saturday. The tempo was up.
"We responded to it," Goode said. "It really wasn't about us getting tired. We watched them on film do that to Miami. We prepared for it all week in practice. Our offense is one of the best and we practice against it. So it wasn't too bad."
"What's funny is since I've been here, we've had different offenses," Miller said. "But playing out there today, for the most part, it was like playing against our offense. Tempo got us to some degree, but it was mostly the run."
Now it's on to the LSU game.
"This is the biggest week of the season," Goode said. "LSU is one of the biggest opponents we'll have played since I've been here. We have a lot of work to do on offense, defense and special teams to get ready for them."