7 Plays in 7 Days: WVU’s Defense Denies Baylor Four Times at the Goal line
7 Plays in 7 Days will highlight the seven most important plays from the West Virginia 2019 Football season, one day at a time. This is day five, the third most important play of the season.
7) Sam James 44-yard touchdown reception versus no. 11 Texas
6) Casey Legg 51-yard field goal versus no. 24 Kansas State
5) George Campbell 83-yard touchdown reception/Winston Wright 95-yard return touchdown versus no. 12 Baylor
4) Bryce Wheaton 50-yard touchdown reception versus no. 24 Kansas State
3) Four-play goal-line stand versus no. 12 Baylor
Just like play five on this list, the third most important play from this season is from the Baylor game and is also multiple plays.
Mentioned previously, West Virginia’s offense struggled mightily during the first half against the Bears. In the first half, WVU gained 54 yards, punted six times and threw one interception.
With a first-half performance like that, West Virginia really should not have still been in the game at the half. Baylor was undefeated at the time at 7-0, the no. 12 team in the nation and were scoring 38.9 points per game. West Virginia had lost three games in a row, had just been blown out 52-14 by Oklahoma and had not scored more than 14 points in three weeks.
Being shut out in the first half should have been a death sentence for the Mountaineers against Baylor, and yet the Bears were only up 7-0 at halftime. This happened because West Virginia’s defense, the defensive line especially, was playing the game of its life.
The WVU defense opened the game by forcing three straight three and outs. Baylor then went on an eight-play, 86-yard touchdown drive. If the Baylor offense could get going it was going to be all over for West Virginia.
Two drives later, Baylor went 82 yards on eight plays to set up a first-and-goal at the three-yard line. If Baylor was able to score a touchdown here and go up 14-0 ahead of halftime, that might have been the dagger for how poorly WVU’s offense was playing to that point. To stop them, WVU’s defense would need to stop the Bears on at least three plays with less than five yards to go.
On first-and-goal, Gerry Bohanon came in at the wildcat to rush for Baylor. Reese Donahue and Jeffery Poole Jr. were able to stop Bohanon just before the goal line.
On second-and-goal, Baylor went to a traditional goal line formation and tried to just power the ball into the endzone. Reuben Jones grabbed John Lovett with one hand and Dyland Tonkery got him down to keep him out of the end zone.
On third down Baylor just went with the tried-and-true quarterback sneak. It looked like Charlie Brewer got a good push, but WVU, led by Darius Stills, was still able to deny him.
Not content settling for a field goal, Baylor decided to try another quarterback sneak with Brewer. Brewer got even less of a push on the second attempt and the WVU defense held strong with their backs against the wall.
“It’s a certain attitude you’ve got to take when you hit the red zone,” Jones said after the game. “Yeah, you play with attitude and yeah, you play tough and stuff like that, but when you hit the red zone it’s a certain level of play that you’ve got to be playing at. When you get within that 10-yard line, you’ve got to turn it up a little bit more.”
After the game WVU defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said he was proud of the way his guys played at the goal line.
“I think out guys wanted it. As a parent or a coach or whatever, it’s good to see your guys do things that you knew they were capable of doing,” Koenning said. “We played with better pad level than they had and I’m glad they didn’t try to run it off the edge.”
West Virginia’s defense finished the game with 12 tackles for loss and eight sacks. The Stills brothers accounted for five of those sacks as a pair. Jones said he knew as soon as the defense got on the field for that sequence that Baylor was not going to score.
“Whatever you’ve got on the field is whatever you’ve got when you go out there. The weight, the height, your arms, your legs, that’s whatever you’ve got, there’s nobody else out there but you and your body. You’ve got to take your mind to another place,” Jones said. “Before those plays even went, I already knew that we weren’t going to let them in because of how we went out there. I looked everybody in the eyes and everybody was looking each other in the eyes and I was like, ‘oh yeah, they’re not scoring’.”
Darius finished the season with seven sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. He was also named to the All-Big 12 first team and was an honorable mention as the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year. Dante finished with seven sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss and was named to the All-Big 12 second team. Jones has three sacks on the year, Pooler 2.5.
This performance by the defense, against Baylor in front of a national audience showed just how dominant WVU’s front could be.