WVU can talk bowl after win

Fighting my way through the myriad of traffic that was making its way to Milan Puskar Stadium for Saturday’s Big 12 Conference home opener against No. 11 Oklahoma State, I found myself searching for possible ideas for this morning’s column.

Making it into the friendly confines of the press box, I continued to press my thoughts as to what to opine over the Mountaineers’ fifth-ever meeting with the Cowboys.

Let’s face it, when the team you cover is coming off of a lackluster (and that is putting it nicely) 37-0 loss to border state rival Maryland, selecting an appropriate topic isn’t all that simple.

Making my selection even more daunting was an OSU defense that was only surrendering 13.7 points per game and was second in the 10-team conference in pass defense efficiency.

In the end, however, it was the Mountaineers’ prevent unit that came up with the big plays as WVU evened its mark in the Big 12 at 1-1 with a big game looming at Baylor next Saturday night.

“It (WVU’s defense) was much better at running to the football and tackling when they got there,” OSU head coach Mike Gundy said. “That’s what I saw out there and that was the biggest difference I saw.”

Words that made first-year WVU?defensive coordinator Keith Patterson smile.

“What I’m most proud of from our guys is the way we played with intensity, aggressiveness and with a physical nature,” Patterson said. “That’s Mountaineer football.”

It’s also something fans have been waiting to see after what transpired at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore seven days ago.

It was also the kind of play WVU needed to avoid another 5-game skid like the one that occurred in 2012 and dropped it out of the Top 25 and cost the old gold and blue any chance of winning the Big 12 in its first season in the league.

Something fans were concerned would happen following WVU’s second loss of the year, and first to a Maryland squad in eight years.

Not only the fans, but third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen had to be wondering if the offense, which recorded only six first downs and committed the same number of turnovers against the Terrapins, would ever return to the form it displayed a year ago as there was more than one change made in the starting lineup for Saturday’s noon showdown.

But, thanks to a 58-yard interception return by junior defensive back Ishmael Banks and senior Darwin Cook’s third pick of the season with 3:54 on the clock, fans can again look forward to West Virginia’s first trip to Waco, Texas, to take on a Baylor Bears team that WVU edged by a 70-63 margin a year ago.

If the defense can continue to play at the level it showed on Saturday and the offense continues to improve under the leadership of FSU transfer Clint Trickett then a 12th straight bowl game will be more than just a dream.

Contact Jim Butta at jbutta@newsandsentinel.com