Finally. The collective breath of the West Virginia Mountaineers fanbase breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday evening when the much maligned defense finally stepped up and made some plays. To be sure, the defense was not good. Don’t confuse plays with quality. A team that gives up nearly 600 yards of offense, including over 300 yards of passing to the quarterback before he leaves right after halftime is not good, but what the Mountaineers did do is create HAVOC.
The Mountaineers intercepted a pass, defended several others, “forced” two fumbles and were credited with two sacks, five tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries. All in all, the defense created pressure and that pressure led to turnovers or put the Baylor Bears in a position they didn’t want to be in. Second and long, and third and long. Downs and distance that allowed the Mountaineers to dictate what type of play was coming.
Against the Pittsburgh Panthers, the Mountaineers created 19 havoc plays - 5 sacks, 6 TFLs, 3 passes defended and 3 QB hurries, plus 2 fumbles in only 62 plays. It was a great start to the season. Havoc Rate = 19 / 62 = 30%. Great.
Against the Kansas Jayhawks, those numbers plummeted. The Mountaineers had no sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 3 passes defended and 1 QB Hurry plus 1 fumble, for a total of 8 havoc plays in 65 chances. Havoc Rate = 8 / 65 = 12%. Very Bad.
On the road against the Virginia Tech Hokies, the Mountaineers were better than they had been against the Jayhawks, with 1 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 3 passes defended and 5 quarterback hurries plus one fumble and one interception for a total of 14 havoc plays in 70 chances. Havoc Rate = 14 / 70 = 20%. Where we want to be.
When they Mountaineers traveled to Austin to take on the Texas Longhorns, that havoc rate once again plummeted as West Virginia could only generate two sacks, five tackles for loss, one pass defended and one QB hurry but did not generate any type of turnover in 60 chances. Havoc Rate = 9 / 60 = 15%. Below average.
Against the Baylor Bears, the Mountaineers were back to where they want to be, at or above 20% Havoc when they had two sacks, five tackles for loss, 2 passes defended, 3 QB hurries, one interception and two fumbles in 70 chances. Havoc Rate = 15 / 70 = 21%. Good.
In total, the Mountaineers, removing Towson because FCS, have created 65 havoc plays in 327 chances, or 19.8% on defense. That’s slightly below where you want to be at 20% but close. The Texas Tech Red Raiders have allowed 23 sacks and 10 interceptions in 328 dropbacks. In the games the Red Raiders have lost - NC State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State - besides losing to “State schools”, the quarterback has been harrassed all game long, and the Red Raiders allowed 95 havoc plays in those three games. In the games they won, they held up much better.
This defense isn’t good and you should expect it to give up a lot of yards, but if it wants to have a chance to win games for the Mountaineers, it needs to create havoc.