Column: Gibby’s defense delivers a beauty before Bedlam


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After the backpats, handshakes and locked-arms crooning that capped another successful Saturday, Tony Gibson transitioned from talking about TCU to bracing for Bedlam.

His West Virginia defense had asphyxiated TCU’s run game into the realm of negative integers. As in minus-7 yards, which would’ve been astounding even had Gibby placed Mike Singletary in the middle, much less a collection of no-name Mike linebackers that actually did the trick.

That the Frogs made enough hay in the air to scratch out 222 yards didn’t matter much, because it still represented their puniest total offense output since 2013. It was complete domination, from David Long doing what he’s done for three years to young Dante Stills finally doing what the recruiting analysts suggested he would.

TCU had nine possessions that generated 8 yards or fewer, which afforded no chance of keeping this game competitive.

Gary Patterson, leading a 4-6 team, sounded flummoxed: “They kicked our butts.”

Dana Holgorsen, steering an 8-1 team, sounded like a coach grateful to finally sync up a terrific offense with a steady defense in the same season. “I’ve said this a hundred times: Tony Gibson has arguably done as good of a job as any defensive coordinator in college football.”

Inarguably, Gibson will earn every cent of his $900,000 salary if his unit stands its ground over the two weeks.

He departed the postgame media room in time to flip on the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game, noticing the Sooners had compiled 453 yards  … by halftime.

OU entered Saturday scoring 49 points per game, and by the hair of their Sooner hides, they made 48 stand up against the Pokes. (Turns out, not everybody converts a 2-pointer under pressure.)

Oklahoma continues to play with lethal precision offensively. Kyler Murray stands in the on-deck circle should Tua Tagovailoa’s Heisman campaign stall for even a moment. And as dangerous as TCU’s Jalen Reagor looked this week, Murray has a couple Reagors to target. Plus Murray operates behind an offensive line superior to any WVU has faced since, well, last year’s Oklahoma game.

Before the Sooners visit on Black Friday, however, Gibson’s defense must face Taylor Cornelius, who lit up OU for 501 passing yards. And Cornelius did so without the ability to lean on Justice Hill in the second half. (If only he had that 2-point throw to do over. Are we certain Tom Herman didn’t phone in a timeout before Cornelius threw it into the turf?)

The Cowboys lost despite putting up 640 yards. Whatever psychological hangover derives from the near-miss in Norman, you’d expect OSU to be emotionally engaged when a top-10 team comes calling next week in Stillwater.

“We knew about the schedule in November,” Gibson said. “We’ve prepared and built ourselves up to be able to stop these kind of offenses. We’re going to get tested the next few weeks.”

And of Oklahoma State in particular?

“They came here and embarrassed us last year,” Gibson said, “so we have redemption on our mind and we have to get it right.”

Yup, the Pokes hung 50 in Morgantown a year ago. Who knows, maybe it will take West Virginia hanging 50 this time around to win amongst the Pad People. Gibson doesn’t rule out any scenario in the frantic Big 12.

What we know after nine games, though, is that West Virginia’s defense isn’t the pushover most people anticipated.

JoVanni Stewart, who by all measurements has no business playing linebacker for a Power 5 program, has started eight straight games there out of necessity. When advised of that ridiculous minus-7 rushing stat by TCU, Stewart called it a reward for the man who believes most in the outsized effort of undersized players.

“Hopefully Coach Gibby sleeps pretty well tonight,” he said.

To quote the Dalai Lama, “Sleep is the best meditation,” and it shall be for Gibson. Because upon waking up, there’s film to study from Bedlam.

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