The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest Sports

October 8, 2012

Mountaineers’ Miller comes up with big plays just in time

AUSTIN, Texas — When West Virginia defensive coordinator Joe DeForest told his players to have a short memory, Pat Miller listened.

Last week, Miller was the punchline to every bad joke about the West Virginia defense. The senior cornerback from Birmingham, Ala., got beat deep, had receivers run by him when he was in position and missed tackles even when he got his mitts on an opposing player.

When fans, analysts and casual viewers used WVU’s defense as an example of what’s wrong with the current trend of college football — where a team can score 70 points and still be in danger of losing, as the Mountaineers were in a 70-63 defeat of Baylor in their first-ever Big 12 game — Miller became the poster boy.

“We were getting pounded in all types of ways last week — people were doubting us as a defense,” Miller admitted. “We didn’t really appreciate how people were acting toward us. Everybody has a bad day, but you have to learn from your mistakes.”

Texas knew all about Miller’s struggles. The Longhorns had seen the game films. They’d heard the jokes.

So with WVU clinging to a 41-38 lead in the fourth quarter Saturday night at Texas’ Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and the Longhorns facing a fourth-and-13 at the WVU 39-yard line, it was no surprise that they tried to pick on Miller.

But when Texas quarterback David Ash looked for wide receiver Mike Davis for the second play in a row, trying to keep the drive alive, Miller, playing man-to-man coverage, was ready. He played the ball and the receiver perfectly, avoiding contact, getting in position and then knocking the pass to the ground. In a game where defensive stops were rare, Miller’s play gave the Mountaineers the ball with the lead.

“We had tight coverage,” Miller explained of the game-changing play. “I was out there with the receivers. We knew what to expect, because we watched the film a lot. Trusting my team and breaking to the ball, that comes from practicing.”

But Miller’s night wasn’t over yet.

After a Geno Smith fumble gave Texas the ball back at the WVU 12-yard line — in perfect position to tie or take the lead — the Longhorns were looking at a third-and-6 from the WVU 8-yard line, still down three.

With the play clock winding down, Texas snapped the football before Ash was ready, and it sailed right past him. The sophomore sprinted after the bouncing pigskin, still trying to make a play, but when he scooped it up and looked down the field, he was plowed over by an excited Mountaineer — Miller.

The 16-yard loss forced Texas into a long field goal, which missed the mark, and WVU went on to a 48-45 victory.

In total, on the unusually chilly night in the Lone Star State, Miller finished with five tackles and two pass breakups, more than redeeming himself for the Baylor setbacks.

“Pat Miller deserves all the credit in the world,” said DeForest. “He made a play, and he’s a huge reason why we won the game. People were down on him, but you don’t need to be down on Pat. He’s going to fight back.

“Sure, you look at the yards and points and all that (WVU allowed Texas to accumulate 45 points and 404 yards of offense), but the bottom line is we made the stop when we needed a stop.”

Miller explained that it was that attitude from his coach that helped him through what he called a difficult week.

“The first thing Coach DeForest said in practice was, ‘I believe in you; I’m not going to give up on you,’” said Miller. “That’s all I needed to hear. They believed in us, so we had to go out and do it. They put us in position to make plays, and we made plays.”

Just as it was after the poor performance against Baylor, Miller said it’s equally important to quickly forget about what happened at Texas, in front of the biggest crowd to ever watch a Mountaineer football game. WVU passed one test, but there are plenty of talented offenses left on the schedule — including the likes of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State — and the defense will be tested over and over in the offensive-minded Big 12.

But Miller believes his team will be ready.

“This was a confidence booster for us, and we needed that confidence,” he said. “Texas had a great team, and they gave us everything they had. But we stepped up. That’s going to give us confidence as a defense to know we can compete with anybody.

“We go against the best every day in practice. There’s nowhere to go but up. We proved it one time, now we just have to prove it week in and week out.”

And if the critics still aren’t quieted, Miller knows exactly how to tune them out.

“People are going to say what they say,” said WVU’s No. 6, who played for Rush Propst at Hoover High School — the player and team featured in MTV’s television series “Two-A-Days.”

“Last week they were beating us up, and now they want to boost us up. But the outside means nothing. All that matters is what we do in our film room, in the weight room and on the field.”

— E-mail: chuffman@

register-herald.com

1
Text Only
Latest Sports
  • 042014 old white Happy birthday to The Old White

    As Greenbrier owner Jim Justice proudly stood behind the podium on the first tee box addressing a crowd at the 100th anniversary of the historic Old White TPC Course, a surprise guest emerged from the bushes by the tennis center.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042014 bubba Watson becoming a West Virginian

    Greenbrier owner Jim Justice was glued to the television a week ago today, watching Bubba Watson try to chase down his second green jacket at Augusta National Golf Club.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042014 spartans LOCAL ROUNDUP: Spartans win Spring Break Wooden Bat Classic

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • St. Joe’s Lewis named 2014 High School Coach of the Year

    Huntington St. Joseph girls basketball coach Shannon Lewis has made a habit of celebrating success in Charleston over the last few years.

    April 19, 2014

  • 041914 old white Old White to celebrate 100 years

    The home of The Greenbrier Classic will be having a birthday today, and the celebration should be something special.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mullens, Pineville to meet in Anderson Memorial

    After many years away from the sideline, legendary Mullens High School coach Don Nuckols is returning to the game of basketball.

    April 19, 2014

  • 041914 D'Antoni Lakers mum on D’Antoni

    Mike D’Antoni was still the Los Angeles Lakers’ coach when he left their training complex to spend the Easter weekend out of town with his family.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 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

  • 041814 Sisler Diamond Classic continues today

    Fayetteville pitcher Kaitlyn Sisler pitched five innings of shutout softball as the Pirates beat Oak Hill 10-0 Wednesday in the Diamond Classic in Fayetteville.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • D’Antoni’s Lakers future still unclear

    With the Los Angeles Lakers season officially over — the Lakers beat the Spurs 113-100 Wednesday but finished 27-55 overall, the most losses in the club’s history and the franchise’s worst winning percentage since the Minneapolis Lakers in 1957-58 — Marshall fans will be keeping a close eye on what’s going on in Tinsel Town over the coming days.

    April 17, 2014