After falling into a 10-point, first-quarter hole against Kansas Saturday afternoon, West Virginia’s defense absolutely clamped down on the Jayhawks for the rest of the game.
On their first two drives of the game, the Jayhawks scored 10 points and gained 63 yards on nine plays for a seven-yard average. Over Kansas’s final 13 drives of the game, they scored zero points, gaining just 84 yards on 43 plays for a 1.95-yard average.
WVU scores 38-straight points after bring down 10-0 and a late kickoff return touchdown couldn’t bring the Jayhawks any closer as WVU won 38-17.
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown said his defense played with high levels of confidence, physicality and effort Saturday.
“Defensively we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Brown said. “It’s really about effort and about physicality. We’re flying, we’re getting multiple hats to the ball. Guys that are our best players are playing at a high level, Darius Stills, Tony Fields, Tykee Smith, those guys are playing at a high level.”
The Mountaineers had 11 tackles for loss, five sacks and two interceptions in the victory.
“I think defensive success starts up front,” Brown said. “We’re mixing it up as far as how we get to some of our pressure stuff. We’re not necessarily wholesale pressuring, but we’re getting to some well-designed, four and five-man pressures. They’re playing with a lot of confidence and they’re playing extremely hard, when you do that and you bring that physical element too, you’re going to have success. “
Linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo led the team with nine tackles and also had a half tackle for loss and a pass breakup. He agreed that WVU’s success started with the defensive line.
“We’re very talented up front and then coach [Jordan] Lesley has a knack for coming up with different schemes, stunts and twists and we basically just feed off of it,” Chandler-Semedo said. “They also have to count the linebackers in the box so maybe you count a linebacker one time and miss a d-tackle because he’s slanting in such a way that you might think someone has a gap when someone doesn’t. It’s definitely very confusing for an offensive line, especially if you don’t see it consistently.”
Along with Chandler-Semedo, several Mountaineer defenders put together solid performances. Sophomore spear Tykee Smith had eight tackles and two tackles for loss. Defensive ends Jeffery Pooler Jr. and Akheem Mesidor both had two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. Safety Alonzo Addae and nose tackle Darius Stills had the interceptions.
Chandler-Semedo said as the game went on, the defense just kept gaining more and more confidence in themselves.
“We kind of get into a mode like ‘okay they’re not going to get another yard on us, nobody’s getting anything on us’,” he said. “That’s really just the swagger and confidence we play with. We prepare so we can go in there and be 100% confident.”
After an off week last week, Chandler-Semedo said the team was well prepared to face Kansas, which enabled them to play with such a high level of confidence.
“We had two weeks to prepare for them so we knew exactly what they were going to give us,” Chandler-Semedo said. “We knew what type of players they had, we knew how they were going to try and get them the ball, everything we saw in the game we’ve seen on film so we were well prepared with it.”