The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

November 24, 2010

Wannstedt sees Mountaineers’ defensive ‘swagger’

West Virginia defensive lineman Scooter Berry calls it swagger.

Whatever it is, the Mountaineer defense has it.

“You got to have swagger,” Berry said. “Coach (Bill) Stewart says to play with arrogance, not ignorance, so we try to buy into that. If you feel good, you’re going to play good.”

And nobody knows the West Virginia defense has played well, great even, better than Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt.

West Virginia (7-3, 3-2 Big East) and Pitt (6-4, 4-1) battle at noon Friday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in the annual Backyard Brawl.

He’s seen the Mountaineers’ “swagger” on film and in the few occasions he’s had to watch them on television this season.

If not, he could just go to the ratings, where he sees the Mountaineers among the national leaders in most team defensive categories, including first in third-down percentage, allowing opponents to convert third downs just 21.7 percent (30 of 132) of the time.

The Mountaineers are also fourth in total defense (245.1 yards per game), fourth in points allowed (12.9), fourth in rushing defense (88), fifth in sacks (3.2 per game) and eighth in pass defense (157.1).

“When you look at the statistics, they’re playing as well defensively as anyone in the nation, and not just in one single category,” Wannstedt said. “When you look at their scoring defense, they’re at 12 points per game. That’s impressive.

“When you look at their rushing defense, their red zone, their third down — they’re playing very well as a unit. They’re not giving up very many big plays.

“They have experience and guys that have been in the system a couple of years and that helps them.”

Additionally, Keith Tandy is fourth nationally in interceptions (6) and Bruce Irvin is tied for fifth nationally in sacks — ironically, with Pittsburgh’s Brandon Lindsey — with 10.

Wannstedt said one of the main reasons is WVU’s rare 3-3-5 defensive scheme.

“It is different because of the three-down-linemen scheme,” he said. “Most of the teams in our conference are four-down-lineman schemes. Some of them are a combination of both, so they do present your offense with a challenge — particularly with a week like this when you’re one day short preparing to block that. That’s a big challenge, and then when you combine that different style with good players, it gives you problems.

“I would say that they’re very disciplined. As reckless as they play, they have good athletes and they know the system — it’s nothing new for them and they play within the system. They don’t make many mistakes, either.”

Berry said the Mountaineers aren’t feeling pressure to win games or maintain their status in the ratings.

“I don’t want to say there is pressure because we just go out there on the field and play our game,” he said. “ If we continue to do what we do, the stats will take care of themselves. It’s nice to know that you are one of the top defenses in the country, but at the end of the day, it’s all about how you play.”

Text Only
College Sports
  • 042314 trickett Mountaineers have benefited from incoming football transfers

    Recruiting in college football seems to get more and more attention every season. Websites like and stalk the high school sidelines and blow up potential recruits’ cell phones in search of the latest information. But there’s one important aspect that often goes ignored — transfers.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • WVU baseball pounds Terps

    The offense had 16 hits and sophomore left-hander Ross Vance struck out six as the West Virginia University baseball team routed Maryland 14-2 on Tuesday evening at Hawley Field.

    April 22, 2014

  • Crutchfield not interested in Division I job

    You would think Jim Crutchfield would be a great candidate for a head basketball coach’s job at an NCAA Division I university.
    But the Clarksburg native keeps saying that he’s perfectly content in that role at West Liberty, a Division II powerhouse. His 10-year record there is an absolutely amazing 272-49. Significantly, 10 of those defeats came in his first year at the West Liberty helm.

    April 22, 2014

  • Stepping up: Kelly racking up wins for Lions

    Sundays have become red-letter days for Chris Kelly.

    April 22, 2014

  • Paul Popovich, now 73, wishes he were playing baseball today

    If you’re a longtime baseball fan, you may recall Morgantown’s Paul Popovich.

    April 22, 2014

  • Hiring an interim while waiting on D’Antoni would be an injustice

    The search for Marshall’s new men’s basketball coach remained in a holding pattern over the Easter weekend while the Los Angeles Lakers put off their decision on coach Mike D’Antoni’s future until this week.

    April 21, 2014

  • 041914 gibby WVU trying to find speed on defense

    Tony Gibson took over as West Virginia’s new defensive coordinator over the winter with the goal of trying not to do too much to rock the boat. As the fourth coach to hold that spot in as many years, the Van native — in his second stint as a Mountaineer assistant — knew that his players needed some stability.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Turnbull’s tenure dominates WVU wrestling history

    Did Oliver Luck really do a thorough job in deeply evaluating Craig Turnbull’s 36-year career as wrestling coach before firing him?

    April 17, 2014

  • WVU’s top football prospects working out for NFL teams

    As we draw ever closer to the NFL Draft, the prospect workouts for teams are picking up steam for former Mountaineers. Both running back Charles Sims and defensive end Will Clarke have a busy road ahead.

    April 17, 2014

  • 041714 millard Kickoff time set for WVU-Alabama

    West Virginia football fans can now start counting down to the exact minute, instead of just the day.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo