The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

December 28, 2010

QB Wilson will test WVU ‘D’

MORGANTOWN — Brandon Hogan was named one of West Virginia’s defensive MVPs, along with defensive linemen Chris Neild, after helping the Mountaineers finish as one of the nation’s top defensive units this season.

But a knee injury will keep the senior cornerback from playing in tonight’s game between West Virginia (9-3, 5-2 Big East) and North Carolina State (8-4, 5-3 ACC) in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

In his place will be Pat Miller, who started against Maryland and got a bit of a wake-up call when he was beaten on a couple throws, including one that went for a long touchdown. Brodrick Jenkins will also see action.

His play against Maryland was valuable, Miller said.

“To me that was a learning process,” Miller said. “Now I know that they’re going to make plays. Everyone makes plays. I’m going to try not to make a big deal out of it.”

Coach Bill Stewart has faith in his young cornerbacks.

“(Miller has) gotten better, as has Brodrick Jenkins,” Stewart said. “Hopefully, we’ll have our Swat 40 team in there, too, where we’ll have our safeties up as linebackers. The biggest thing for this game, in my opinion, is that we have to keep them from big gains on first down.

“With Russell Wilson, they can’t be first-and-10, first-and-10, and get into a rhythm. He’ll run us right out of the park. We have to get them out of rhythm. If we do that, then we get a chance to play more of our speed guys, which will help guys like Pat or Brodrick cover their tall receivers.”

Miller finished the year with 15 tackles and three pass breakups and Jenkins 14 and two.

Stewart said their play will be critical to the Mountaineers’ success.

“It’s crucial,” he said. “Those receivers are bigger and taller than our guys. From what I’ve seen, they look faster than our guys. I don’t think anyone will give us a chance. We’ll see. We’ll play.”

In Wilson, WVU is getting a quarterback who is 280 of 482 passing for 3,288 yards with 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Miller expects to see a lot of 6-foot-3 Owen Spencer (57 catches, 868 yards and 4 TDs) and 6-4 Jarvis Williams (46-636-4).

“They are going to do what they do,” Miller said. “I just need to be ready and do what I do. I’m going to be prepared, do what we’ve been doing in practice and make plays.”

Miller said his confidence has grown as of late.

“It’s way higher,” Miller said. “At first, I played a little as a freshman – I was on and off the field. I got a lot more playing time this year. I think I’ve improved each and every week and gotten more comfortable with the people I’m playing with.”

Getting heat on Wilson will be key as well.

Bruce Irvin has 12 sacks and Julian Miller (no relation to Pat) has 10.5 for the Mountaineers, who rank third nationally in total defense (251.3 yards per game). The Mountaineers are second against the rush (85.1), second in scoring defense (12.8), second in third-down conversion (24.7 percent), third in sacks (40) and 11th against the pass (166.3).

“You just have to stay deep and contain him,” Irvin said. “He’s the biggest offensive threat. I think if we contain him, we’ll be all right.”

“I’m excited,” added safety Robert Sands. “I won’t be bored this game. They throw the ball an awful lot, but on the other hand they are going to go against one of our strengths, which is our secondary. We have a heck of a secondary. Our secondary will put pressure on them. I’m ready for the challenge, and I know the rest of my ball hogs are ready for the challenge as well.”

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