MORGANTOWN - When West Virginia's defense lines up to face Baylor's offense Saturday, one concern stands out above all others.Tempo.Yes, there are the more traditional and basic concerns, like how to contain the nation's leader in total offense, quarterback Nick Florence, through the air, as well as containing a ground game that averages 207 yards per game and makes the Bears one of the most balanced teams around.But perhaps the primary reason for Baylor's success on offense - sixth in the nation in yards and fifth in points - is not because the Bears pass or run the ball so well, but because they do both so quickly, seldom allowing a defense to get set.
"They don't do anything slowly,'' defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said. "You have to be ready to play right now, all the time.''The perception, though, is that West Virginia might be a team more capable of handling that tempo than some others because the Mountaineers play fast on offense, too. So the defense is used to seeing it in practice.There's just one flaw in that theory. Seldom does WVU's defense face its offense in practice. Most of the work is done against a scout team. Coach Dana Holgorsen said, as a general rule, the No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense face each other just two periods a day, or about 10 minutes of a two-hour practice.To compound the problem, while West Virginia's offense can operate just as fast as any, it doesn't give the defense the same looks it will see from Baylor."We always do two periods a day, just for speed of the game,'' Holgorsen said. "But we also try to help each other out by not just running plays to run plays for speed of the game, but to give them some looks that might be beneficial to them. We don't want to waste time.''
Holgorsen said that philosophy won't change this week. The No. 1 units won't practice against each other any more than normal."We won't do more of it because, again, the offenses are different,'' he said. "There are similarities that we can get accomplished in two periods, but we have pretty good scout teams that can give them the correct looks as opposed to a manufactured look just for speed of the game.''nn
Art Briles has never played a game in Morgantown, so the Baylor coach doesn't really know what to expect Saturday when the Bears face West Virginia at Mountaineer Field.
But he's not sweating it, either."It's a road trip,'' Briles said. "You never know what to expect when you take a road trip. Nothing ever turns out exactly like you think it's going to, so we'll just load up together, go out there, load back up and get back home.''
Baylor won't be going on the road for the first time this season, so that will help. But the previous road game, last Friday, was at Louisiana-Monroe in front of 31,175. Saturday's crowd will nearly double that.Still, it helps to have been there."I think without question, any time you can go on the road and get in an environment where you certainly don't have the number of people on your side that the other people do and be able to get a win, it certainly does give you some positive vibes for on down the road,'' Briles said. "But any time you get on a bus and you're not going to your stadium it's going to be a war and it's going to be a battle and you'd better have everything in line.''nn
The name fairly jumped off the page of West Virginia's game-day dressed list for Maryland last weekend:Maurice Zereoue.
And yes, he's related to Amos, West Virginia's first career 4,000-yard rusher. Maurice is his younger brother by 15 years.He was dressed for the game because he was named the team's offensive scout team player of the week. He made the team as a walk-on during the first week of classes."I don't know much about him to be honest with you,'' Holgorsen said. "I just figured out who he was a week ago.''Maurice went to high school in Hempstead, N.Y., just like Amos did before he played at West Virginia from 1996 through 1998. The day Amos introduced himself to college football by scoring his first college touchdown against Pitt in 1996, Maurice was celebrating his fifth birthday.Maurice is a 5-foot-8, 200-pound junior running back who spent the last two years getting his academics in order at Potomac State.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.