Defensive linemen Chris Neild and Josh Taylor each have an interception this year. Neild picked off a pass to preserve WVU’s win over UConn, while Taylor’s pick against Syracuse got the Mountaineers off and running. When was the last time WVU had multiple interceptions from defensive linemen in a season? Can you name the players? Answer at the end of this column.
With all of the pre-game attention focused on West Virginia’s defense against UC’s offense, the opposite battle hasn’t gotten much attention. The challenge there is big for WVU as well. A Mountaineer offensive line that has been very inconsistent in 2009 must deal with a Cincinnati defense that ranks number one in the nation in tackles for losses. Can WVU finally develop the consistency needed to keep opposing defensive fronts out of the Mountaineer backfield?
For your consideration, the Bearcats have 80 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a total of 308 yards in losses, while West Virginia’s offense has been hit for 235 yards of losses.
The UC press release for the game devotes six full paragraphs to promotion of their mascot’s participation in the cheesy Capital One Mascot of the Year “competition. The school should rightly be proud of its accomplishments on the football field, and any trumpeting of those is to be expected. But an open voting competition where more ballots per person than a Chicago election can be counted?
Jock Sanders has a chance at breaking West Virginia’s single season receptions record, but he won’t be able to coast to the mark. With 58 catches this year, Sanders trails David Saunders and Shawn Foreman by 19 catches. Each of those big wideouts tallied 77 catches to share the WVU school record. With four games remaining, Sanders needs to average five catches per outing to break the mark.
STREAKS ON THE LINE
It’s not just Cincinnati’s perfect 9-0 regular season record that’s on the line in this game. The Bearcats are undefeated in their last 15 regular season games, while West Virginia has never lost at Nippert Stadium. The Mountaineers hold a 7-0 record at the venerable facility.
UC’s current ten-game league winning streak is second only to Florida’s 14-game string.
UC’s offense is certainly high-powered, but another reason for the Bearcats’ large scoring total is that they maximize their chances. Cincinnati has just four turnovers this year (all interceptions). Balanced against 17 takeaways, that’s 13 extra possessions for an offense that certainly doesn’t need any extra help.
UC is the only FBS team in the country that has not lost a fumble this year. The Bearcats have coughed the ball up six times, but have gotten them all back.
WVU defensive end Bob Baum and defensive
tackle John Thornton each picked off a Matt Hasselbeck pass in a 1997 game at Boston College. Despite the picks, the Mountaineers still lost the game.