PoG: WVU - LSU

The defensive nature of Saturday night's clash in Death Valley made it so few players had statistical performances that jump out from the box score. But despite that (and WVU's 20-14 loss to No. 15 LSU) the BlueGoldNews.com staff made its picks for the top performances from the Mountaineers' side of things.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME:

J.T. Thomas.

The senior defensive leader was a stalwart in the middle of the field, helping to ensure the short crossing patterns LSU ran all game (seemingly to try to help embattled quarterback Jordan Jefferson get in a flow) went for short gains and didn't turn into big plays after the catch.

That was just one of the many things the West Virginia defense, led by Thomas, did well on Saturday night. The linebacker tied for second on the team in total tackles, with six. He added a pass break-up.

He helped key a defense that was far more impressive than the scoreboard showed. The Mountaineers allowed only two first downs in the first half, yielded only 230 yards of offense and held LSU to 3-of-13 on third downs. The Tigers went on only one real scoring "drive" all game, and that ended in a field goal.

Despite the loss, that should ultimately bode well for a defense that has largely lived up to its big-time preseason billing thus far this season.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Jock Sanders.

While getting anything going offensively was a tall task against what was a stout LSU defense, Sanders provided a boost to the Mountaineers' passing attack.

He caught a five passes for 47 yards. Both of those marks were game-highs.



Jock Sanders
The senior made a nice play to score on a 13-yard reception on his team's first possession of the second half, taking a swing pass from quarterback Geno Smith, making one cut and following good blocking on the edge to reach the end zone.

It was all the more impressive considering Sanders played hurt. His nose was bloodied in the first half, and he played in the second half with paper shoved up his nose to stop the bleeding.

Sanders didn't get the kind of marquee road win he surely hoped for in his senior season, but the Florida native did himself proud in SEC country.

GAME BALLS:

  • Weathering the early storm.

    Just about nothing went right early.

    Big LSU punt return. Blocked field goal. Fumble. Touchdown. Interception. Field goal. Three-and-out. Bigger LSU punt return (for a touchdown).

    It was 17-0, barely 20 minutes into the game. The 92,575 in attendance at Tiger Stadium were roaring, thinking their team was ready to roll over the Mountaineers.

    They were wrong.

    Sure, their Tigers ultimately walked away with the win. But they had to fight for it, tooth-and-nail. Beyond the power rushing of Stevan Ridley, LSU never had any consistent option on offense.

    The West Virginia offense put together a handful of longer drives against Les Miles' strong defense, got back within 17-14, and had the ball four times with a chance to take the lead. If not for a pair of missed Tyler Bitancurt field goals, the game could have possibly gone to overtime.

    It would have been easy to lay down when Patrick Peterson's 60-yard return made it 17-0 and seemingly everything was going against WVU. But the Mountaineers, to their credit, did not yield.

    Other teams may beat this West Virginia squad this season, but they will certainly have to fight for four quarters to do so.

  • Robert Sands.

    Statistically, he led the WVU defense, registering nine total tackles, including one tackle for loss.

    Much like Sanders, he also did so despite playing with pain, as he continued to be troubled by the shoulder stinger he sustained earlier this season. At one point, he was in visible discomfort, and his arm dangled awkwardly.

    But it didn't stop the junior safety from playing at full speed. He served as a highly-effective pass rusher in the team's third down packages. He was seemingly always in the right spot in run support and didn't make any obvious mistakes in coverage.

    Great defense takes solid play from all positions. Sands is a constant force wherever he lines up, and even when he doesn't land the jarring hits he's known for, he shows his ability to do all the other things great safeties must do to help their teams.

  • Keith Tandy.

    The source of much criticism for giving up big plays, the cornerback bounced back and had a solid game.

    He made a key interception in the first quarter that killed an LSU drive that had reached the red zone. He added two pass break-ups on top of that (one when he recovered in time to make a play on the ball after seemingly getting beaten deep down field) and a pair of tackles.

    Tandy had the help of fellow cornerback Brandon Hogan, who returned from his one-game suspension for DUI and started against the Tigers. Last week against Maryland, Hogan's replacement, Pat Miller, was beaten on a pair of long touchdown throws in a similar way to what Tandy was a season ago at South Florida.

    Games like this one show how Tandy has grown since. Is his play perfect? No. But Tandy has grown into a solid cover corner, as evidenced by his play Saturday night against SEC-caliber wide receivers.

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