MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — While versatility helped Kyle Rose dent West Virginia’s defensive line rotation, he sounds relieved to be working exclusively at the 3-technique tackle these days.
“Playing down in that nose guard (position) is some tough stuff,” said Rose.
The 6-4, 283-pound sophomore—considered too light for the nose guard spot by major-college standards—nonetheless was forced to vacillate between tackle and the interior during his first two seasons. Earlier this season he spelled Shaq Rowell at the nose when Christian Brown was first injured, but for the past three games Rose has shifted back to defensive tackle, where the positive results project to keep him there.
“I’m a natural 3-technique and that’s definitely where I make most of my plays at,” Rose said.
Last week’s game against TCU proved it, when Rose made a career-high seven tackles. The most consequential of those stops came on the first play of overtime when he dropped Waymon James for a 6-yard loss, dooming TCU on what became a futile series.
“It was a zone run where (the TCU linemen) all were kind of reach blocking, and I just kind of ran up the middle,” Rose said. Seeing quarterback Casey Pachall ride the handoff to James—a play TCU had faked numerous times previously—Rose followed the running back on this occasion
“And I guessed right.”
West Virginia’s defensive staff had guessed that Rose would face individual blocking most of the game, and TCU followed the script.
“We kind of knew going in the 3-technique was going to have to have a good night for us to win the game,” he said. “Shaq was getting a lot of double-teams and Will (Clarke) was getting a lot of double-teams in the 5-technique. It was going to leave one of us unblocked.”
Though Rose earned defensive champion honors in WVU’s 30-27 victory, it didn’t come without some ribbing from the perpetually sandwiched Rowell, who noted how “Kyle was very dominant against those one-man blocks.”
“But seriously,” Rowell acquiesced, “Kyle played lights out. The kid played lights out.”
Thanks to the close victory, West Virginia (4-5, 2-4) is now back on a bowl-eligible trajectory with games against Kansas and Iowa State to close the season. But first comes Saturday night’s quarrel with Texas (6-2, 5-0) and Rose is done patting himself on the back for the key tackle he made at TCU.
“Making one play in one game is not going to get us where we need to be,” he said. “Our goal this year was to be Big 12 champions and we fell short of that goal. Anything less was a failure, so now, let’s try to go be bowl champions.”
Just as Rose benefitted from single-blocking at TCU, so did reserve defensive lineman Noble Nwachukwu, who registered his first college sack. The redshirt freshman also contributed a pocket-collapsing push on a play in which Clarke and linebacker Marvin Gross sacked and stripped Pachall.
The compliments pouring Nwachukwu’s way this week seem curious for a still-developing player who has yet to match production with talent. Coaches and teammates who have seen Nwachukwu’s performances vary widely wonder what he’ll bring against Texas.
“It depends on who shows up,” Rose said. “He could be the most dominant guy on the field or he could struggle.”
With Dontrill Hyman (ankle) sidelined for a second consecutive game, Rose played around 55 of TCU’s 69 snaps. He should have a lighter workload against Texas with Hyman expected back.
“Dontrill’s looking good,” Rose said. “He had a good practice (Tuesday) and he should definitely be in there.”