Multiplicity
Keith Patterson
Keith Patterson
Editor
Posted Oct 17, 2012


This past offseason, it was tough to get a clear idea of what scheme West Virginia's new defensive coaches planned to install. Yes, it was to be a 3-4, but it would be "a hybrid" and "multiple." The reason? Games like Saturday's against Kansas State.

In terms of style and substance, the Wildcats are unlike any team WVU faced in the first half of the season. The Mountaineers have, in just six games, faced off against the No. 1 (Baylor), No. 2 (Marshall) and No. 4 (Texas Tech) passing offenses in the country.

Yes, there could be a certain "chicken-or-the-egg" argument to be had there -- are the offenses that highly ranked, at least in part, because they faced WVU's struggling pass defense? But regardless, if you're tired of seeing spread-'em-out, throw-it-everywhere offenses oppose West Virginia, you're in luck.

Kansas State is 108th nationally in pass offense, throwing for only 179 yards per game. Of course, coach Bill Snyder and company have made up for that with a punishing ground game that ranks 11th in the country -- good enough that K-State still averages 40.83 points per game (15th best nationally) despite the low passing totals.

"Now it goes from defending plays and playmakers out in space to, even though they spread the field a little bit, it's still a game that's played between the tackles a lot of times," said WVU's co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. "So we have to be able to crank it down, put eight or nine people in the box at times to stop the run.

"No matter what defense you play, when you play multiple tight end sets and multiple running backs, you've got to outnumber them in the box. That's easier said than done, because you still have to defend the pass as well. So it's not as simple as it sounds, and it presents a different challenge, one that we don't see a lot."

Indeed, this is the first chance to see the "multiple" part of West Virginia's new defense. Patterson and co-coordinator Joe DeForest both said this offseason one of the hallmarks of the scheme would be its ability to bring a fourth defensive lineman in for situational purposes or based on an opponent's personnel.

This sort of matchup is exactly what they were referring to.

"Last week, you wanted to get more speed on the field. Because of injuries, we obviously couldn't. This week, we want to get more girth on the field," DeForest said. "We've got to find the best guys that can defend this scheme. Whoever that may be, it may not be the ideal person, but it's all we have, so we've got to plug in the next guy and fit our scheme to our personnel.

"What we're doing this week, it's like going from the spread to a wishbone. I mean, this is basically single-wing football, wishbone football. Every guy has an opportunity to carry the football. What we have to do is change their mindset. When a certain formation comes up, think this. When another formation comes up, think that. And we've got three days to teach it, basically. So this league creates problems because of the multiple schemes."

That fact is exactly why coach Dana Holgorsen wanted to install this hybrid scheme in the first place.

While the Mountaineers have had their issues on defense this season, particularly in dealing with opponents' passing games, this is a chance to show they have a solid grasp on at least one phase of their defense. On the opposite side, though, if Kansas State can pass against WVU's defense, who can't?

Thus, this game will be an interesting barometer for just how well or how poorly things might go for DeForest, Patterson and company in the rest of their first season on the job in Morgantown.

But it will be a challenge, without a doubt -- attempting to defend two vastly different styles of offenses with largely the same personnel.

"Welcome to the Big 12," DeForest said. "Everybody has to do it. It's very difficult. You've got to switch gears both as a coach and as a player. You've got to change your mindset mentally and physically."

Given the results of recent weeks, WVU's defenders could probably go for a switch in mindset anyhow.



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