MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Waylay in Waco was mere minutes complete when the recoil chatter started from the West Virginia side, traumatic cope-speak about forgetting such a miserable night and moving on to the next game.
But even the most resilient players don’t forget final scores like 73-42. They don’t block out games in which the opponent accumulates a ridiculous 864 yards (the most in Big 12 history).
And nor should they forget it.
As linebacker Isaiah Bruce acknowledged after Tuesday night’s practice, some 10 days removed from the emasculating beatdown at Baylor: “That game definitely put in perspective where we’re at as a team.”
With No. 16 Texas Tech (6-0, 3-0) coming to Morgantown on Saturday, the Mountaineers (3-3, 1-2) are in desperate need of a bounce-back.
“It’s more about us proving it to ourselves. We’ve got to go out there and prove that we’re way better than we showed against Baylor.” — WVU safety Karl Joseph
Bruce saw West Virginia’s defense wilt repeatedly last season, yet this fall’s performance seemed entirely more reliable—at least until Baylor strung up 56 first-half points. That blitzkrieg siphoned swagger and shook confidence. A defense that through five games presumed itself brawny enough to carry the Mountaineers to a 12th consecutive bowl berth suddenly had to re-evaluate.
“I felt like we took two steps backward two weeks ago,” said West Virginia defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, whose unit needed only four blistering hours to fall from third to ninth in Big 12 scoring defense.
His therapeutic retort during the ensuing bye week? “We just hit the restart button.”
Restart for a defensive front that was shoved off the line of scrimmage. Restart for linebackers who were slow to shed blocks. Restart for a secondary that failed to jam Baylor’s receivers and were unable to disrupt the timing of the nation’s most productive offense.
“You can’t let these games turn into seven-on-seven and that’s exactly what happened at Baylor,” Patterson said. “We let people run through the creases in our coverage and had busted coverages. I think we got shocked a little bit.”
Cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell couldn’t imagine being so disappointed after a game in which the secondary intercepted three passes (although two of those came at the expense of backup quarterback Seth Russell in fourth-quarter garbage time).
“We were just flat-out undisciplined,” Mitchell said. “We went away from the framework of the defense. We were not sound. We reverted back to something that wasn’t productive.
“(Baylor) exposed us in an adverse situation because of the tempo, the speed and the matchups.”
Cornerback Icky Banks admitted the barrage of Baylor touchdowns left him wondering, “What’s going on?” As the Bears’ first-string offense encountered no resistance in piling up eight scores on nine drives, Banks sensed “everything was kind of falling apart around us.”
But upon watching game film, coaches like Mitchell and Patterson reiterated how West Virginia essentially gift-wrapped numerous big plays with panicky technique and misalignments.
“All the past games we had been getting away with the little (mistakes),” Banks said. “Coaches told us these little things would catch up to us, and it finally did.
“We were telling each other to stay calm, but we never really linked up and got back together. We let it get to us.”