MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Two losses, 14 touchdowns, 110 points and 1,437 yards.
So much for West Virginia’s “improved” defense.
After confidence-sucking performances against Baylor and Texas Tech, the Mountaineers are desperately trying to regain their footing. Though coaches and players are reluctant to compare this to the 2012 collapse, that’s the most obvious point of reference.
“I don’t think the intensity was there the past two weeks like it was the first five games,” said linebacker Jared Barber, the team’s top tackler with 50.
Intensity, along with discipline, have suddenly been lacking as West Virginia’s defense was exposed by the Big 12’s most efficient spread attacks. Baylor was completely unstoppable while rolling up a conference-record 864 yards in a 73-42 victory. And though WVU enjoyed moments of leverage against Texas Tech, the Red Raiders scored on four of their final drives en route to 537 yards and a 37-27 win.
On Saturday’s trip to Kansas State (2-4, 0-3), WVU encounters an offense more similar to the ones it stalemated during the first five games.
“Things (with K-State) are a little bit more compact,” said defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. “The last couple of opponents have been able to spread you sideline to sideline, making you defend vertically and horizontally. They were able to isolate us a little bit.”
Having slipped to ninth in the league and 103rd nationally in total defense at 453 yards per game, West Virginia (3-4, 1-3) also is allowing 29.7 points, which ranks ninth in the Big 12 and 90th overall.
West Virginia has allowed 20-of-30 third-down conversions in the last two games, clearly unable to matchup against Baylor’s gap-splitting speed and Texas Tech’s pinpoint passing. K-State deploys a more physical attack, especially with dual-threat quarterback Daniel Sams having surpassed juco transfer Jake Waters.
“They like to run the ball with power—they like to hit,” said WVU linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, who could be a candidate for PTSD after chasing Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro all over Mountaineer Field last week. “They like to run the ball straight up and down.”
With a 60-40 run-pass ratio through six games, K-State is playing to its strength and away from its turnover prone quarterbacks who have the fewest pass attempts in the Big 12 (155) but the second-most interceptions (nine).
“Now we can get back hopefully into getting people down in the box,” Patterson said. “I think (Darwin) Cook and (Karl) Joseph, both their strengths are run-support style of safeties. I think that plays more a little bit more into our comfort level.”
Said Barber: “I’d rather be facing a running team. I guess it fits my style better. We’re all looking forward to it.”