MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s defense was sufficient for much of Saturday, albeit against an over-matched opponent.
The Mountaineers held Georgia State to 3-of-13 on third-down conversions, surrendered only 220 yards and forced five three-and-outs.
Yet three big gainers by Georgia State offered teaching moments for West Virginia defensive coordinator Keith Patterson:
1. Ronnie Bell’s 31-yard pass to Robert Davis.
The GSU quarterback was flushed from the pocket and pursued toward the sideline, where he took a sternum shot from WVU defensive end Dontrill Hyman. But before the hit, Bell tossed a downfield prayer that Davis caught over two back-pedalling defensive backs, Travis Bell and Ricky Rumph.
Said Patterson: “We should have had him sacked on the long throw, and what happens is guys get to watching the play. They think they’ve got him sacked and they let their guard down.”
2. Georgia State converts a third-and-13 from its own 23 when Bell finds Keith Rucker for 19 yards.
With WVU trying to force a punt before the half, GSU’s freshman tight end got depth on his route behind the linebackers and made an easy catch in front of safety Darwin Cook.
“That was my fault,” Patterson said, giving himself a teaching moment. “With so many new people on the field (due to injuries), I was just trying to keep from giving up something cheap. I probably could’ve been more aggressive.”
Patterson knew coming into Saturday he would be without linebacker Doug Rigg (concussion) and nickelback K.J. Dillon (leg). But Spur linebacker Isaiah Bruce (leg) showed in warmups that he was unable to play also, and backup nose guard Christian Brown went down in the second quarter.
“I was probably a little bit too conservative in the first half,” Patterson said. “I probably should have forced the issue more.”
3. Travis Evans rips off a 65-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Georgia State averaged 51 yards rushing in its first two games (against FCS teams), and got more than that on Evans’ breakaway jaunt.
“Like you guys have heard me say over and over: 70 percent of all big plays in football is about getting lined up,” Patterson said.
And West Virginia likely was misaligned on that run, with two Buck linebackers on the field—Brandon Golson and Eric Kinsey—each apparently making shifts on their respective sides that left WVU a man short when GSU went unbalanced left.
“Oh, man that gap was from here to that pole,” said Patterson.
Still, the play probably should have produced no more than a 20-yard gain until cornerback Icky Banks took a poor angle inside, allowing Evans a path down the boundary.
“Yeah, Icky gets sealed inside,” Patterson said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be a positive play, but I was shocked that it went all the way. You have to be able to get that ball down.
“Other than the long run. I could live with the rest of it.”