The bye week afforded West Virginia’s maligned defense two potential benefits:
1) A chance to gain valuable practice reps for its growing legion of freshmen contributors, and …
2) A knee injury to TCU starting quarterback Trevone Boykin.
Let’s address the WVU angle first. Co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said the off week was particularly crucial to players such as true freshmen cornerbacks Nana Kyeremeh and Ricky Rumph and safety K.J. Dillon. Those three are seeing increased playing time in the secondary, just as freshmen Kyle Rose and Christian Brown are gaining snaps on the defensive line.
Because unforeseen events crop up in each new game, DeForest said those are situations in which “the basic fundamentals of your defense has to take over.” The extra practice reps, and the subsequent film study around them, has DeForest hoping to see his youngsters show improvement from the 55-14 loss to Kansas State on Oct. 20.
“I’m excited about playing again to get the bad taste out of your mouth and to see what we did in the last week and a half has paid off,” he said.
“We’re young, but they can’t be young anymore. It’s Game 8. Ultimately they’ve got to make a play when the ball is in the air or make the tackle.”
West Virginia (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) has fielded one of the nation’s weakest defenses this season, ranking 114th in total defense and 115th in points allowed. That has spelled opportunities for young players, though their performances have been as lackluster as the veterans they’ve supplanted. DeForest wants his unit to start fresh over the season’s final five games.
“Let’s realize the past is the past,” DeForest said. “Remember what happened as far as why it happened, but learn from those mistakes, move on and let’s start this season over.”
As for TCU’s Boykin, the dual-threat redshirt freshman has gone 1-3 in four starts since Casey Pachall left school to enroll in a substance-abuse facility. Boykin’s 10 touchdown passes during that span have been offset by six interceptions (all of which occurred in the three losses), and his status remains unclear for Saturday after he suffered a knee injury late in last week’s 34-16 loss at Oklahoma State.
If Boykin isn’t healthy enough to start, the Horned Fogs (5-3, 2-3) likely would turn to sophomore Matt Brown.
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