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Lee Kpogba Embodies ‘Effort, Aggression, Together’ Motto of WVU Defense



WVU Football Lee Kpogba

The West Virginia Mountaineers would not be riding an early season win streak if not for the defense stepping up. And there were some who were concerned about the WVU defense after the first two games of the season.

Acting as a savior, the defense has been playing with an intensity and energy that West Virginia fans haven’t seen in a couple years. It’s not to say this effort shouldn’t always be there, but it became an absolute necessity when the offense was forced to work with its backup quarterback.

Nicco Marchiol has led the Mountaineers to two big wins over Pitt and Texas Tech, but he’s done it while throwing less than 100 yards in each game. Those games were won thanks to the WVU defense. Linebacker Lee Kpogba pulled back the curtain for fans while explaining the thought process of the defense, most notably throughout the past two weeks.

Kpogba says the WVU defense has an “EAT” motto, which stands for “Effort, Aggression, Together.” It’s  something he’s been constantly reminding teammates about at practice and even during games.

“We just go out there with grit and we know in the Big 12 it’s not that much of a difference from the top to the bottom of the conference. Every week we’re prepared for a dog fight,” said Kpogba. He went as far as to say he takes a sense of pride in winning ugly games.

The plan was for the defense to be as physical as possible throughout the off-season as a way to make sure they were all ready for the fall. That’s something that Kpogba believes is now paying off. “That was one of the main focuses of the offseason, physicality. We worked pretty hard in fall camp thudding, tackling.”

As a veteran, Kpogba feels it’s his responsibility to be a leader. He’s not the type be overly vocal though. Kpogba leads by example.

WVU Football LB Lee Kpogba Embraces Leadership Role on Defense

Now in his second season as a Mountaineer after starting his college career at Syracuse, Kpogba has 29 total tackles already in 2023. And despite the inconsistency of the group in 2022, the Winston-Salem, North Carolina native recorded 92 tackles (44 solo, 48 assists) and 3.5 sacks.

He knows being physical isn’t enough on its own. Kpogba points to being more fundamentally sound as a reason why the defense has been able to get back to form so far this season. “I feel like we’re going up. We worked really had this off-season focusing on fundamentals and getting back to us,” Kpogba explained.

A comment like that is like music to defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley’s ears. According to Kpogba, Lesley stressing the basics all throughout the spring and summer has paid off, and when it has mattered most for the team too.

“A lot of things as far as communication between the back end and up front. I’d say we’re tackling better than last year. We’re playing harder. I feel like we’re just more hungry this year considering we didn’t get the results we wanted last year.”

The offense is tasked with trying to find more success and be more explosive. But the season isn’t going to just wait for that to happen either. So until that occurs, it’s up to the defense to carry the Mountaineers through an extremely important stretch of the season.

Watch Kpogba’s full press conference below.

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