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Defense recovers for second-half shutout

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The 2012 West Virginia defense, which we’re compelled to mention one more time, allowed an abysmal 472 yards per game. So when the 2013 West Virginia defense opened its redemption campaign by giving up 201 yards in a half to an FCS team, the here-we-go-again alarms  clanged fervently.

Yet Keith Patterson, the coordinator charged with turning around that defense, didn’t blink when his unit came looking for halftime adjustments.

“There’s no magic call, there’s no magic adjustment,” he said. “Why would you sit here and work on something for four weeks of fall camp and all of a sudden come in and make some great halftime adjustment? How about do what you’re coached to do.”

WVU responded by pitching a second-half shutout when William & Mary’s five possessions resulted in three punts, an interception and a missed 42-yard field goal.

“In the second half you could tell our kids were far more comfortable,” said Patterson, attributing the early busts to nerves and over-aggression.

Doug Rigg registers WVU’s lone sack Saturday against William & Mary.

“We just kept telling them, ‘Look, don’t play outside the framework of the defense.’ Sometimes kids with all the right intentions want to make plays … but they weren’t taking care of their own responsibilities.”

William & Mary managed only 108 yards in the second half, though its per-play production only dipped from 5.5 to 4.9 yards. The distinction came on third downs, where the Tribe slipped from 5-of-10 in the first half to 0-of-4 afterward.

Patterson sounded concerned that his unit netted only one turnover—two shy of its per-game goal. Then again, Darwin Cook’s game-clinching interception was timely, and the scoreboard remain the most meaningful stat.

“They don’t give style points for victory,” Patterson said. “At the end of the year it’s going to count as a win, and that’s all that really matters.”

Though his interception of Michael Graham preserved WVU’s lead in the final stages, Cook wasn’t gloating.

“I saw his eyes—he doesn’t really look off his receivers,” Cook said. “So it really wasn’t that hard. The D-line forced the pressure, and he threw an easy pick. It wasn’t nothing too courageous.”

After making only one interception last season, Cook has four in his career.

Though he racked up 108 yards receiving and set up both of William & Mary’s touchdowns, Tre McBride didn’t view Saturday’s performance as any sort of individual validation or a feather for his FCS teammates. He viewed the near-upset as nothing more than a loss.

“I honestly don’t think there’s anything to be happy about,” the junior receiver said. “There were some highlights and we came into the halftime with the lead, but at the end of the day we still lost. There’s nothing to be excited about—we don’t want a pity party.

“But what we will do is we’re going to throw this game behind us and we’re going to work to smash everybody else on our schedule.”

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