The West Virginia defense finished 106th in total defense last year. Defensive Coordinator Tony Gibson received a lot of criticism in 2017 and even Tony himself said he should be fired after the regular season finale performance versus the Oklahoma Sooners. However, one bad year doesn’t define the intensity Gibby has brought to the defense over the years.
Coming into 2018 there was questions whether the WVU defense could compliment the Mountaineers elite offense after they lost two of their three leading tacklers due to graduation and had two of their main contributors along the defensive line transfer. Then in spring practice, Gibson loses two linebackers, that were going to see a lot of snaps, due to injury.
Tony quickly regrouped. He brings in two defensive line transfers in Kenny Bigelow (USC) and Jabril Robinson (Clemson). These two playmakers, on paper looked to be an upgrade, and they have proven it on the field. Then, Gibson decided he wanted to be more versatile and put his best 11 players on the field, even using four down linemen at times and it’s paying off.
In the opening game in Charlotte, they set the tone after Tennessee elected to receive the ball to start the game. The defense made it known they were here to compete immediately. On the first play of the game, Kenny Bigelow busted through the line, hit the quarterback and forced a fumble and the DAWGS were back.
They’ve played with that same intensity through the first three games of the season. The Mountaineers defense has played with a huge chip on their shoulder and its led them to be aggressive on the field. Their attacking offenses, and as a result, they are tied for third in the country for tackles for a loss at 10.0 per game and lead the country in points allowed at 12.3.
Gibson says they’re still not where they need to be. “No way we can get complacent and think we’re good or we’ve arrived. We’re not even close to that.” Explained Gibby.
This is the deepest defense Gibson has had in his tenure at WVU. He’s able to play a lot of bodies throughout the game, keeping his defense fresh in the fourth quarter. This team is unselfish and has embodied what it means to play for West Virginia.
In the two games against FBS opponents, the Mountaineers have held offenses below their season averages.
Passing avg 199.7 vs WVU 172
Rushing avg 230.3 vs WVU 129
Total yards avg 430 vs WVU 301
Third down percentage 40% vs WVU 35.7%
Passing avg 179 vs WVU 227
Rushing avg 177.6 vs WVU 91
Total yards 356.7 vs WVU 318
Third down percentage 40% vs WVU 21.4%
This unit has given up some big plays, but they don’t get rattled or put their head down and it can be contributed to leadership. “They don’t. I probably get rattled more than they do on the sideline and it’s because I want perfection every snap.” Explained Gibby.
Gibson and his DAWGS have a tough test this weekend against #24 Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have the number one offense in the nation, averaging 623.5 yards per game.