By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
Isaiah Bruce, West Virginia’s top tackler in the season’s opening rout of Marshall with 16, said he definitely can do better.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pound redshirt freshman linebacker admitted that he missed five tackles in that first-ever college contest. He also ran into a couple of blocks.
Yet he recovered a forced fumble and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown in that 69-34 victory.
Bruce was surprised to learn the following Monday that he was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.
But he is focusing now strictly on this Saturday’s non-conference game against James Madison University at Landover, Md. The Dukes are 2-0, and scored 90 points while allowing only 10 in those two wins.
Bruce said he didn’t even dream that he would be honored by the Big 12 Conference. But he said it made his parents very happy.
He’s tied for No. 1 nationally in fumble recoveries, No. 13 in solo tackles, and No. 2 nationally in total tackles. Bruce also is No. 1 in the Big 12 with his 16 tackles and No. 1 in fumble recoveries.
“I believe I can always do better,” he emphasized. “I do know that coach (Steve) Dunlap has the school record for the most tackles in a game. He likes to brag about that.”
Dunlap, then coached by the legendary Bobby Bowden, made an amazing 28 tackles in a win against Boston College in 1974.
“As I said, getting 16 tackles felt pretty good, but I didn’t think of it in that perspective. You don’t think about (such things) during a game.
“No matter what you do, I definitely thing you can get even better the more you play.
“The coaches tell us to keep up the energy and the pursuit, and make sure we finish the game.”
Bruce concluded, “No matter whether we’re up by 50 points or fewer, we have to finish the game.”
WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said of Bruce:
“Isaiah is a smart kid. When the referees were in here going over all of the rules, he raised his hands three or four times. And he was asking good questions.
“His conditioning is good, and it was a pleasant surprise (how well he performed against Marshall). But he, along with everybody else, has a whole lot to work on.”
As for Saturday’s game between James Madison and ninth-ranked West Virginia, “no line” had been listed in USA Today for the third time this week. This is sort of unusual.
Why? Your guess is as good as mine would be.