West Virginia will be facing a lot of high-flying offenses this year, but none will be at the level as Baylor’s when the Mountaineers get to Waco this weekend. Through the first three games of the season, the Bears have scored 69, 70 and 70 points, all while calling the dogs off long before the final whistle.
Barber (33) and Rowell (90) say the defense is ready to make plays on Saturday.
That kind of output was not lost on the Mountaineer defenders.
“They’re great players; They move fast and they don’t make mistakes,” said senior defensive tackle Shaq Rowell. “I think that’s the biggest thing. We can’t make mistakes against these guys.”
The fact that Baylor has not been challenged this year, is also posing another issue – West Virginia has not seen what they are fully capable of at this point.
“They really have not been in a situation where they’re pressed to find offense,” said linebacker Doug Rigg. “They’re just running base plays. You can tell their playbook isn’t really open, yet.”
Many fans remember that West Virginia gave up 63 points to Baylor last season (albeit in a win), and that the defense only got worse from there. However, the unit has vastly improved under new defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, something he attributes to the players’ attitudes.
“They have character and discipline. They have a physical toughness and mental toughness to them,” said Patterson. “Our kids today showed not only physical toughness, but mental toughness.”
And with that edge becomes a search for respect. Despite ranking as one of the best defenses in the conference, many pundits – and Vegas – expect Baylor to run up the score on Saturday. That doesn’t sit well with WVU.
“Baylor’s a tough team. They’re definitely good offensively,” admitted linebacker Jared Barber. “But we still have a chip on our shoulder. I think we’re four touchdown underdogs or something like that.”
On offense, questions still linger about who will man the quarterback position this weekend. Through five weeks, West Virginia has started three different quarterbacks, and it looked like another change was possible after Clint Trickett injured his shoulder against Oklahoma State.
According to offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, though, the picture is getting a little clearer.
“We have one healthy quarterback (Paul Millard) and one sort of healthy one (Clint Trickett),” said Dawson, who divulged that Ford Childress is still not practicing. “We are going to rep the ones that are healthy and see what we can do Friday. Clint threw some today and took some reps (but) the main thing is how he is feeling on Thursday and Friday.”
If he’s healthy, expect Trickett to get the nod said head coach Dana Holgorsen earlier in the day.
“If (Trickett and Childress) are both 100 percent right now, we would probably go with Clint,” said Holgorsen. “He did a pretty good job keeping the plays alive and had some savvy to him.”