MORGANTOWN — Another game, another quarterback ... and so go the days of our lives, at least if we happen to be defensive coordinators for West Virginia University.
It seems like every week, WVU is facing a quarterback whom they don't have a very strong understanding of, which D.C.'s just hate, and this week is no exception as the Mountaineers travel to Lubbock, Texas, for a 5:30 p.m. meeting with Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders, 1-3 on the year and 0-3 in Big 12 play, are coming off a bye week and took advantage of the extra time to change quarterbacks from Alan Bowman, who started the first four games, to Henry Colombi, a Floridian who transferred from Utah State and who gave the Red Raiders a boost after he replaced Bowman in the last game after he had an ankle injury.
But coach Matt Wells said the injury was not what forced the change, simply that Colombi had shown well in two relief appearances, in which he completed 40 of 54 passes for 359 yards, had three touchdowns and an interception, and also showed an ability to run the ball.
This is the third time in four games against Big 12 teams that WVU is not only facing a backup quarterback, but one who is a dual threat.
It started with the Oklahoma State game when Shane Illingworth started in place of the injured Spencer Sanders. Then, after regular quarterback Charlie Brewer started the Baylor game, Miles Kendrick was promoted to starting quarterback by Kansas.
Each time a backup was fingered to start, it got everyone on the WVU staff scrambling to get all they could on the starter. This week, with Colombi, they went through the same fire drill again.
"It's obvious that if you don't have information on someone you are playing, it makes it a little tougher to defend them," said Jahmile Addae, WVU's co-defensive coordinator.
"The one thing we know is these guys have had two weeks and that lends to maybe doing some things that fit his skill set more than a different quarterback," Addae said. "What we like to do week in and week out is to build everything we do with rules that will allow us to be mistake free and play fast.
"When we do that without beating our chests as coaches and just turn them loose, it's more so not screwing it up as opposed to outwitting ourselves. In terms of a replacement quarterback it's a tough position to play whether you are a freshman or a senior," Addae said.
"There's some serious teaching and serious bumps and bruises you have to take along the way to become really elite there. We'd like to think we can make it difficult for him. We're going to give him some things and take them away ... smoke and mirrors and hope he throws us a few."
WVU certainly has the tools to make it difficult on an inexperienced quarterback, being the No. 1 team in total defense in the country and coming in off two games in which they have recorded 11 sacks.
But it becomes a more complicated game when the quarterback can make plays with his legs as well as his arm.
"Dual threat quarterbacks are not what you want to see as a defensive staff, but it's the thing of today. I don't know of too many staffs that don't carry at least one on their roster," Addae said.
You have to change a number of things against dual threat quarterbacks rather than a pocket passer, but the most important part of it is discipline.
"It's all about being sound. Dual threat quarterbacks force you to play what we call the second play ," Addae said. "A lot of times you cover the first play masterfully but all of a sudden, he scrambles and if you don't do your job or outwork him you end up giving up a bigger play than you would have if you'd messed up the original play. You have to defend the football and the receivers for the entire count of the play.
"The second thing is if you don't do your job, meaning if you don't have gap sound, if you don't have leverage on your defense, if you don't have everything cupped, they can do some damage with their legs and move chains. That keeps the defense on the field, which means they are gaining yards and ultimately it leads to points."
History tells us that Texas Tech has long had a way of putting points on the board, often without great results. In 2011, for example, Tech averaged 33.8 points per game to rank No. 22 in scoring in the nation yet finished 5-7.
WVU comes into the game with an improving and now dangerous offense, spearheaded by the running back Leddie Brown. In last week's victory over Kansas, Brown rushed for 195 yards, including an 87-yard breakaway touchdown right up the middle.
In addition, the passing game showed signs of coming together as quarterback Jarret Doege threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns. He connected with no fewer than 11 different receivers, headed by Bryce Ford-Wheaton, who caught five for 89 yards and a touchdown.
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