MORGANTOWN - Now the task is to do it consistently.Overshadowed by the 291-yard rushing performance of Dustin Garrison, West Virginia's defense had a breakout game in the Mountaineers' 55-10 rout of Bowling Green. That unit forced five Falcon turnovers and could have had more. Bowling Green recovered three of its five fumbles, and a couple of interceptions were dropped.Cornerback Keith Tandy, who led the Big East in interceptions last season and is the league's active career leader in the category, had none coming into the game but picked off Matt Schilz twice.Coach Dana Holgorsen, though, let him know that even that wasn't good enough."It should have been three,'' he said. "But it was probably a matter of time for him.''True, almost everyone was lamenting the ones that got away."I think the weather helped us a little bit [in creating turnovers],'' defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said, referring to an almost constant rain or drizzle and temperatures in the low to mid 40s. "But if you look really close, I think we missed a few others.''nn
Starting strong-side linebacker Doug Rigg missed the game after having surgery on a broken bone in his wrist that could keep him out for a few weeks. He was replaced by Jewone Snow, but not on the strong side.
Instead, middle linebacker Najee Goode moved into that spot and Jewone stepped into the middle. It meant that West Virginia had no one starting at the same linebacker positions from just two weeks ago. Josh Francis last week replaced Casey Vance at weak-side linebacker and played there again Saturday."I just thought the next-best guy was Jewone,'' said Casteel, who could have merely replaced Rigg with his backup, Tyler Anderson. "Najee played [on the strong side] last year and he can step back there any time.''All in all, Casteel was pleased with how his defense played a week after giving up far too many points in a 47-21 loss to No. 1 LSU (although 14 of those points came on a kickoff return and a 1-yard drive)."They jumped on us early [Bowling Green led 10-3], but I'm proud of the way we hung in there,'' Casteel said. "And I liked the way we finished, too. A few times this year we've played well in the first half and then didn't finish. That didn't happen in this one.''
Holgorsen wasn't going to harp on it, especially after a 45-point win, but West Virginia's special teams again had their awkward moments.
Bowling Green's Boo Boo Gates returned the opening kickoff 30 yards before fumbling after being hit by Eain Smith. But then he ran the next kickoff back 77 yards to set up a Bowling Green touchdown to help take that early 10-0 lead.And punter Corey Smith, a week after a wildly inconsistent game against LSU, had just one chance to punt against the Falcons. He shanked it out of bounds for 14 yards, just as he had done with his first punt a week earlier.Still, Holgorsen wasn't complaining right away."Special teams-wise, we were pretty solid after the first three or four snaps,'' he said.BrieflyDuring parts of the game, especially in the second half, Quinton Spain got another chance to prove what he could do. Only days after Holgorsen accused him of being "lazy'' and not playing to his potential, he was inserted at left guard for long stretches. When Spain, who is also the backup at right tackle, played left guard, the regular there, Jeff Braun, moved to right guard and alternated series with starting right guard Tyler Rader.
The crowd on a miserable weather day was just 46,603. That's the smallest at Mountaineer Field since 35,942 saw West Virginia beat Temple on a cold, snowy day in 2003.Not that it would have made a great difference, but Bowling Green could have helped itself twice and dropped sure-fire touchdown passes. Ray Hutson dropped one in the wide open at the 5-yard line in the fourth quarter and Alex Bayer dropped a first-quarter pass in the end zone (on a trick play) when the ball floated long enough to allow Tandy to recover and smash into him just as the ball got there.The Mountaineers open Big East play Saturday at home against Connecticut (2-3), which lost 38-31 at home to Western Michigan. UConn's only wins this year are against Fordham and Buffalo and on Saturday the Huskies gave up 479 passing yards.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org