WVU must contain Walsh
MORGANTOWN – What do you get when you cross Maryland’s C.J. Brown and Oklahoma’s Blake Bell? Mountaineer fans are about to find out when No. 11 Oklahoma State and sophomore quarterback J.W. Walsh come to town for their noon showdown with West Virginia on Saturday.
“He (Walsh) is a mixture of both,” WVU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said during Tuesday’s press conference. “He has all of the intangibles. He is a winner. He has a proven record all the way back to high school.
“He is a good player. You can tell that he is a coach’s son. We have to keep him contained. Try to make him one-dimensional.”
Something the defense was able to do in a 16-7 loss to the Sooners in week two and last week in a 37-0 setback to the Terrapins. Bell was held to 0-for-1 passing and Brown failed to eclipse the 100-yard mark rushing.
However, both were able to get their teams the victory as Bell’s fourth-quarter rushing kept the West Virginia offense off the field and the ball in the hands of the hosts, while Brown completed 16-of-25 attempts for 217 yards as Maryland snapped a seven-game losing skid against the old gold and blue.
“They (OSU) do a nice job with the option,” continued Patterson. “I think the Oklahoma and Maryland games helped prepare us. You cannot have two better games to prepare you for Oklahoma State.
“We have a good tempo and vertical defense for the passing game.”
A year ago, third-string quarterback Clint Chelf, who completed 20-of-28 passes for 293 yards and three scores, burnt the Mountaineers’ secondary for 292 yards and four touchdowns en route to a 55-34 OSU victory.
“They are very different, yet still share qualities,” Patterson explained. “I think there is more option involved. Having said that, there are a lot of similarities.”
The key, however, is stopping Walsh, who has connected on 59-of-84 attempts for 642 yards and five touchdowns and leads the Cowboys on the ground with 182 yards and two scores on 25 carries.
“They have an athletic quarterback,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “J.W. Walsh has won a lot of football games. He’s a coach’s kid, he’s savvy, he throws the ball well, he runs well, he makes it work.
“They’ve always been good up front. Joe Wickline coaches those guys up, and he’s done that for nine years straight. They are always going to try and run the ball.”
And especially if teams spend too much time on stopping Walsh, the Cowboys have the weapons to hurt you with the running game.
Senior Jeremy Smith has rushed for 176 yards and six touchdowns on 37 carries, while junior Desmond Roland has contributed 89 yards and one score on the ground.
Both could get a lot of opportunities against a Mountaineer run defense that is surrendering 174.8 yards per game.
“They appear to go fast,” Patterson said. “They try to get around 20 seconds for each play. We have a definitive plan on how we want to disrupt tempo. A lot of it is creating negative-yardage plays. We try to match up the tempo from a defensive standpoint.”
In last year’s meeting, the Cowboys’ offense accounted for 13 plays of 20 yards or more, led by Chelf and junior wide receiver Josh Stewart.
Stewart comes into the contest with 185 yards and one touchdown on 12 receptions, but took advantage of a porous secondary a year ago and accounted for 172 yards and two scores on 13 catches.
“We need to improve on a little bit of everything,” WVU sophomore defensive back Karl Joseph said. “We need to line up faster. Oklahoma State is a big up-tempo team, so we need to make sure we match their tempo.
“We need to keep being physical, and start making a lot more game-changing plays.”
Something the Mountaineers have done rarely in 2013. Coming into the fifth week of the season, WVU ranks No. 9 in the 10-team Big 12 in turnover ratio (-1.00), having come away with eight turnovers (5 fumbles, 8 interceptions), but having given the ball up 12 times (4 fumbles, 5 interceptions) on offense.