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WVU Football Players, Defense Rank Nationally for Second Week

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU head coach Neal Brown’s Mountaineers (2-2) lead not only the Big 12 Conference rankings, but also garnered top national rankings as well, following a 16-13 road loss to No. 4 Oklahoma on Sept. 25.

Although he only notched 27 yards on one kick-off return during the Week 4 loss, junior wide receiver Winston Wright Jr. leads the Big 12 in kick-off return yardage. He also falls just behind Mississippi State’s Lideatrick Griffin in the national ranking. Griffin captured No. 1 with 244 yards on five returns, to Wright Jr.’s 371 yards on nine returns. Wright Jr.’s yardage also places WVU fourth in the nation in kick-off returns, an average of 41.22 yards per return.

Redshirt junior kicker Casey Legg‘s six field goals put him at third in the Big 12, behind Oklahoma’s Gabe Brkic, whose clutch, fourth quarter kick won the Sooners Week 4, and Iowa State’s Andrew Mevis. Although Legg is 100 percent (6-6) on field goals, Brkic is 8-10 and Mevis is 9-12. Legg’s 100 percentage puts him in a 19-way tie for first in the country in field goal percentage.

Redshirt sophomore Jared Bartlett‘s three season sacks, all three of which registered against Virginia Tech, came in at No. 2 in the Big 12 in sacks. He’s just behind Kansas State’s Felix Anudike, who has four.

Joining Bartlett at the top of the conference sacks is redshirt junior defensive end Taijh Alston. Alston’s single sack and assist against the Hokies were further bolstered by a pair of Spencer Rattler sacks in the Oklahoma game, his season-high. That production places him one spot below Bartlett in the Big 12’s top-3; that’s also enough to put him among a seven-way tie for No. 12 in the Big 12.

He’s a dual threat though, ranking eighth in the conference in a different category: tackles for loss. Through West Virginia’s four games, Alston has recorded 4.5 TFLs, forcing opponents back a total of 26 yards. He also ranks 36th in the nation, part of a thirteen-way tie. That also helps the WVU defense to lead the Big 12 and rank No. 5 nationally.

Alston also played a huge role in the WVU defensive stats being among the top in the country. The Oklahoma loss dealt WVU defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley’s team a three-spot drop to No. 4 in red zone defense, but it also provided a No. 23 ranking in rushing defense (90.5), No. 25 in scoring defense (16.8), and No. 36 in total defense (308.2). Alston’s sacks boost the defense’s sack count to 14. An average of 3.5 per game ties WVU with Kansas State and Oklahoma for No. 1 in the Big 12 Conference and No. 14 nationally.

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