MORGANTOWN, W.Va – Is it better to be lucky or good? Well, the West Virginia defense hasn’t been good enough and hasn’t been near lucky enough either.
What can a struggling defense do to try to help themselves and try to mask their issues? That easy. Create turnovers. But on top of allowing far too many yards and points this season, creating turnovers is something the WVU defense has had issues perfecting.
With only 3 total turnovers in WVU’s favor this season through 5 games, the Mountaineers haven’t been able to quickly derail their opponents by swinging momentum and possessions enough. And the only turnover that has had any real impact for WVU came from an unlikely player in cornerback Jacolby Spells. His pick is credited with sealing the win in Blacksburg and making sure the Black Diamond Trophy stays in Morgantown. While it was a big play, it did occur with the score already firmly in the visiting team’s favor, meaning it’s very likely that WVU wins that game regardless. The other turnovers are fumble recoveries.
Even though a team’s turnover margin (WVU’s is -2) is not entirely the fault of the defense, realizing that it also factors in the offense giving up possessions too, failing to cause takeaways yourself becomes more glaring when the opponents are forcing critical picks. An argument can be made the defense let down the offense in two of WVU’s losses this season – the season opening Backyard Brawl and a home night game loss to Kansas. Both Pitt and the Jayhawks capitalized off late interceptions to clinch those wins. However, it’s a problem when turnovers are only having a negative impact for the team as a whole.
This is why how the defense can find ways to turn the ball over and get their powerful offense back on the field was a key focus of Monday’s press conferences. Defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley won’t allow a lack of luck to be an excuse. He feels there have been several opportunities at interceptions, most notably in the Texas game, and players just simply did not catch the ball. Understanding cornerbacks are not receivers by nature, and if they were they would probably play on offense, winning teams usually come up with more big plays than losing squads. Lesley talked about how failing to come up with those picks helped lead to the score getting out of hand early and that a pick or two could have changed the course of the game.
Linebacker Jasir Cox, one of the newer members of the defense who wasn’t part of groups that were a strength for the collective effort in recent years, echoed what his defensive coordinator said.
“Just lock in on your keys and play fast,” Cox said as advice he would give to his teammates. Cox seemed to believe that if they stick to fundamentals and keep trying to fly around the field, good things will eventually come and that may mean forcing interceptions and fumbles. With that said, Cox did also agreed with Lesley’s assessment that the entire defense needs to increase their sense of urgency on the matter.
The return of Charles Woods, which actually looks promising to happen soon, may do wonders to help the lack of turnovers, but WVU can’t rely on that or afford to wait for their star cornerback to get back on the field.
Can WVU turn their luck around and make their opponents turn the ball over more moving forward?
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