The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

November 11, 2009

Defense is key for WVU against Cincinnati

MORGANTOWN — When West Virginia buses — yes, buses — to Cincinnati on Thursday, they will bring with them the one thing that gives them a chance to beat the No. 5-ranked, undefeated Bearcats in Friday night’s nationally televised game.

That one thing is this unconventional 3-3-5 odd stack defense they use.

Rest assured, if they are to win the game, they will do it on defense.

Now it’s true that the Bearcats have been something of an offensive juggernaut, that being the word WVU coach Bill Stewart used to describe them. They scored 70 points against Southeast Missouri State this year, scored 40 or more in three other games and never scored fewer than 28.

Nationally they rank sixth in passing offense, third in total offense and fifth in scoring offense at 40 points a game.

Now you may ask why one would suspect WVU’s defense, which had been rather ordinary until holding Louisville without a touchdown last week, should hold the key to victory for the 7-2 Mountaineers?

The answer is history.

Brian Kelly’s offense has been truly that juggernaut, except against the Mountaineers.

Last year, while Cincinnati did win, it did so in overtime, scoring only 26 points and one of the touchdowns was a 100-yard return of the opening kickoff by Mardy Gilyard. But offensively, quarterback Tony Pike had a tough go of it, completing just 16 of 30 passes for 178 yards. The Bearcats managed only 178 rushing yards and just 12 first downs.

And the last time in Cincinnati, WVU won the game with its defense, scoring a 28-23 victory, holding the Bearcats’ running game to just 84 yards. While Cincinnati did pass for 323 yards in that game, the Bearcats possessed the football only 22 minutes and 59 seconds, the WVU defense twice recovering fumbles and getting them off the field.

Looking at that, as good as Kelly has been in creating an uptempo, spread offense that wrecks havoc on defenses, WVU has been solid in its approach.

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Bob Herzel
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