MORGANTOWN - Most of the talk surrounding West Virginia's 20-6 win over South Florida Thursday night centered around the surprising end to the first half. That was when the Mountaineers got a gift turnover and then scored on a trick play to break the game open.
Had that not happened, though, the No. 25 Mountaineers (5-1, 1-0 Big East) still would have won the game because of the play of its defense. OK, so maybe it wouldn't have been as easy, but the facts are hard to argue:
Even West Virginia's offensive players bowed down to the Mountaineer defense. Jock Sanders sounded almost guilty about it.
"We're putting too much stress on our defense,'' said the senior receiver. "It was a great win, but we have to help them more. Congratulations to our defense. They played their [butts] off.''
In six games now, West Virginia's defense has given up 0, 21, 17, 20, 10 and 6 points. In the last four games the Mountaineers have given up 217, 230, 276 and 202 yards. They have also intercepted seven passes in the last three games. Four of those picks have been deflected balls caught by cornerback Keith Tandy.
"That seems to be the way things are going,'' said defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. "Our guys [in the secondary] are doing a good job of disguising what they're doing.''
The bottom line, though, is that in the last three games - LSU, UNLV and now USF - the opposition has scored just three touchdowns, only two of them against the defense. LSU got one on a punt return and another on a 7-yard drive that took four plays and barely got the ball across the goal line. UNLV got a fourth-quarter touchdown after trailing 42-0. South Florida didn't cross the goal line.
"If the offense can't score, they can't win,'' said linebacker Najee Goode, who had two sacks. "They get three points or seven points or 10 points, we're going to win.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.