WVU notebook: WVU defense has its breakout game
MORGANTOWN - Now the task is to do it consistently.
Overshadowed by the 291-yard rushing performance of Dustin Garrison, West Virginia's defense had a breakout game in the Mountaineers' 55-10 rout of Bowling Green. That unit forced five Falcon turnovers and could have had more. Bowling Green recovered three of its five fumbles, and a couple of interceptions were dropped.
Cornerback Keith Tandy, who led the Big East in interceptions last season and is the league's active career leader in the category, had none coming into the game but picked off Matt Schilz twice.
Coach Dana Holgorsen, though, let him know that even that wasn't good enough.
"It should have been three,'' he said. "But it was probably a matter of time for him.''
True, almost everyone was lamenting the ones that got away.
"I think the weather helped us a little bit [in creating turnovers],'' defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said, referring to an almost constant rain or drizzle and temperatures in the low to mid 40s. "But if you look really close, I think we missed a few others.''
Starting strong-side linebacker Doug Rigg missed the game after having surgery on a broken bone in his wrist that could keep him out for a few weeks. He was replaced by Jewone Snow, but not on the strong side.
Instead, middle linebacker Najee Goode moved into that spot and Jewone stepped into the middle. It meant that West Virginia had no one starting at the same linebacker positions from just two weeks ago. Josh Francis last week replaced Casey Vance at weak-side linebacker and played there again Saturday.
"I just thought the next-best guy was Jewone,'' said Casteel, who could have merely replaced Rigg with his backup, Tyler Anderson. "Najee played [on the strong side] last year and he can step back there any time.''
All in all, Casteel was pleased with how his defense played a week after giving up far too many points in a 47-21 loss to No. 1 LSU (although 14 of those points came on a kickoff return and a 1-yard drive).
"They jumped on us early [Bowling Green led 10-3], but I'm proud of the way we hung in there,'' Casteel said. "And I liked the way we finished, too. A few times this year we've played well in the first half and then didn't finish. That didn't happen in this one.''
Holgorsen wasn't going to harp on it, especially after a 45-point win, but West Virginia's special teams again had their awkward moments.
Bowling Green's Boo Boo Gates returned the opening kickoff 30 yards before fumbling after being hit by Eain Smith. But then he ran the next kickoff back 77 yards to set up a Bowling Green touchdown to help take that early 10-0 lead.
And punter Corey Smith, a week after a wildly inconsistent game against LSU, had just one chance to punt against the Falcons. He shanked it out of bounds for 14 yards, just as he had done with his first punt a week earlier.
Still, Holgorsen wasn't complaining right away.
"Special teams-wise, we were pretty solid after the first three or four snaps,'' he said.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org.