By Dave Morrison
Register-Herald Sports Editor
West Virginia leads the Big East in total defense (255.7 yards per game) and is first in rushing defense (62.7 yards per game).
Of course, eight sacks that led to Maryland to having minus-10 yards on the ground helps out that rushing number.
Then again, the big bomb has also been a thorn in the WVU defense’s side. WVU is sixth in pass defense.
You take away a 96-yard bomb to Aaron Dobson and 80- and 60-yard strikes to Maryland’s Torrey Smith, and the number would put WVU at the top in all three important defensive stats.
“Our defense is playing pretty good, but we can’t continue to give up big plays because it’s going to come back and haunt us,” coach Bill Stewart said Monday. “I’m not in panic mode. We know what we have to do, it sometimes youngsters have to make a play and that just didn’t seem to be the case the last couple weeks on those big plays.”
Dobson’s near length-of-the-field catch and run was the first dagger.
“The one at Marshall, Keith Tandy went up for the ball and played the ball instead of the man, missed the ball and didn’t tackle the man,” Stewart said.
The first one against Maryland, dagger two, Smith caught the ball over Pat Miller, who was one of the fill-ins for the suspended Brandon Hogan.
Stewart said a blitz was called but there was a breakdown. That left the rookie Miller alone on an island.
“One of those was a blitz, our guys didn’t get home, they didn’t get to the quarterback before he got the ball off. The kid (Pat Miller) didn’t make a great play at the end but the guys could have helped him if they had blitzed right.”
The third dagger — the 80-yarder — Miller was supposed to have help.
“There should have been some help (there),” Stewart said. “We were in quarters, so four across, (Miller) should have gotten some help out of another player.”
All told, those three plays represent 236 of the 576 passing yards WVU has surrendered.
Stewart knows the Mountaineers can’t allow more of those against No. 15 LSU Saturday night when the 3-0 WVU goes to Baton Rouge.
“There’s all kinds of intangibles and reasons that go into that,” Stewart said. “The big play can kill you. It’s a downer for everybody unless it’s happening for you. We’ll keep working on it and hopefully we can make a play next time.”
As far as Hogan is concerned, Stewart said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the senior playing. But he denied emphatically ESPN reports that the team’s seniors would make the decision.
“Brandon Hogan is at the same status that he was and I will determine if that changes this week or the next, or the next,” Stewart said. “I just don’t know the timetable on that, to be honest. I’m going to see how he continues to work. He’s been very responsible lately and if he isn’t, he won’t be with us. As soon as I think he’s ready to play, whether it’s this week or next, he’ll be ready to play. I give our seniors a lot of input, but I, and I alone, will make the decision of when he comes back.”
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Geno Smith and Bruce Irvin were honored by the Big East on Monday. Smith, who completed 19 of 29 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns, was named the offensive player of the week. Irvin, who had three sacks and three tackles for a loss, was named the defensive player of the week.
— E-mail: demorrison@