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
  • Miners stop Lorain County 5-1

    The West Virginia Miners received a strong outing from starting pitcher Patrick LaGanke, and scored one run in each of the final five innings to defeat the Lorain County Ironmen 5-1 Thursday.

    July 25, 2014

  • Some topics of interest to area fans

    Tom Hart, a widely known retired Morgantown High School administrator and coach, continues to excel as one of the nation’s top bowlers

    July 25, 2014

  • 072514 WVU Replacing Sims a challenge for WVU

    Every year, almost every college football preview publication available lists one key statistic that most use to evaluate the prospects for any given football team — returning starters.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • WVU’s Worley clear starter at cornerback

    There were few bright spots in West Virginia University’s 4-8 football campaign last year, and even fewer on the defensive side of the football, where the Mountaineers gave up more than 455 yards and 33 points per game.

    July 24, 2014

  • Holgorsen to appear on ESPN special

    West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen will appear Wednesday on ESPN’s annual mid-summer college football coaches’ “car wash” — in which guests appear across multiple programs and platforms over one day.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen: WVU getting comfortable in new league

    Dana Holgorsen remembers the glory days of West Virginia University football — the ones that included conference championships and BCS bowl wins. In fact, he was part of one of those, leading the Mountaineers to a Big East championship and an Orange Bowl victory in his first season as head coach in 2011.

    July 23, 2014

  • 072314 miners Miners take series with Paints

    The way the West Virginia Miners see it, they don’t have the luxury of planning for tomorrow.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • WVU's Fleming signs with Yankees

    Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.

    July 22, 2014

  • WVU to kickoff 2018 season against Tennessee in Charlotte

    The Charlotte Sports Foundation (CSF) announced Tuesday morning that it has secured a regular season college football game for the city of Charlotte pitting the University of Tennessee against West Virginia University.

    July 22, 2014

  • Can summit of bigwigs really solve college athletics issues?

    I see where the Big 12 Conference is going to host in New York City what will be titled “A State of College Athletics Forum.”

    July 22, 2014

Saints Training Camp