The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

October 10, 2011

WVU ‘D’ comes up big

Unit records five sacks, does not allow a touchdown against Connecticut

MORGANTOWN — There was more than enough kudos to go around to the West Virginia defense after Saturday’s 43-16 win over Connecticut.

No. 13 WVU did not surrender a touchdown on defense, the Huskies’ lone score coming on a late interception of backup quarterback Paul Millard which was returned for a score.

Three first-half field goals were all the defense surrendered.

And, WVU recorded five sacks, after getting just three in the first five games.

The Mountaineers’ defense even got in on the scoring act, sacking UConn quarterback Johnny McEntee in the end zone for a safety in the second half.

And what a second half it was, as WVU allowed just 97 yards.

“I thought we got a little bit better as the game went on,” defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. “We actually saw the kids grow a little bit today. They did some good things. (They were) a little more aggressive. We are starting to see some improvement in some things.”

McEntee never had a chance in the second half, as he was constantly harassed.

It actually started late in the first half, when Bruce Irvin, who had 14 sacks last year, broke free and clubbed McEntee to the ground with a right forearm to the chest.

“We got a really good push out of Bruce today, and Julian (Miller),” Casteel said. “We blitzed a little better. Those are good things to see. Bruce was able to make a difference on third down for us. We try to get him in situations where he’ll be successful.”

It was one of Irvin’s best games of 2011, with four tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and 1 1/2 tackles for a loss of yardage.

Defensive backs Eain Smith and Darwin Cook led WVU with eight tackles and freshman linebacker Juwon Snow had seven, in his second start.

“Coach was telling us we had to start hitting on these blitzes,” Snow said. “I remember coach told us about a few seasons back, when (WVU) wasn’t getting any sacks. Then in the second half we just exploded, getting sacks left and right. Maybe that’s how it will end up this season.”

Snow, a freshman, had the play of the game. With UConn driving for the lead, Snow plucked a McEntee fumble out of the air at the WVU 5 and sprinted, sort of, to the UConn 12. The 83-yard return was the longest non-scoring run since Tim Love returned a fumble 41 yards at Boston College on Sept. 1, 2001, in Rich Rodriguez’s first game as the Mountaineers’ coach.

Two plays later, it was 17-9 and WVU’s offense finally revved to life.

“He should have lateralled that ball, ya know what I mean?” Casteel said, laughing. “Juwon is a good football player. Again, he’s still learning how to play. He really wants to do well and works at it. The more he plays, the better he’s going to get. That’s really the second game that kid’s played here. It was good to see him rumbling down the sideline. He made some big plays. He’s just got to continue to improve.”

“I didn’t want to have a chance of turning the ball over and them get the ball back,” Snow said, sheepishly. “So I just made sure it was tucked. I was kind of (upset about not scoring) but not really, because I have a lot of confidence in our offense. As long as we get the ball back.”

WVU (5-1) is off this weekend and travels to Syracuse for a Friday, Oct. 21, contest at the Carrier Dome.

— E-mail: demorrison@

register-herald.com

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