Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

WVU FOOTBALL ; Mountaineers Looking to Boost Sack Numbers

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

WVU FOOTBALL ; Mountaineers Looking to Boost Sack Numbers

Article excerpt

MORGANTOWN - A quarterback sack is treated in a particular manner at West Virginia. It's celebrated, but it's not required. The Mountaineers blitz, but they do so from a variety of places, often unexpected. They're unique in what they do and how they instruct and deploy their players that they essentially count sacks in the absence of them.

"I bet you 30 percent of the third-down stops when we're going good is a quick throw when they throw it deep too far or out of bounds or they throw a short route and we get off the field, defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. "That's a sack for us. You're affecting the quarterback. He's seeing it.

WVU doesn't put a premium on them, understanding a 3-3-5 will ordinarily be outnumbered up front, but Gibson definitely likes having them. Trouble is, neither he nor his three predecessors have had too many.

The defense ranked Nos. 97 and 50 in sacks Gibson's first two years on the job and totaled just 49 those two seasons - or three less than Alabama's NCAA-best total from 2015. Bruce Irvin's 14 sacks in 2010 are not only the most in the past 10 seasons - by a good margin - but the only time someone reached double digits for WVU. The Mountaineers had 45 sacks that season, the third-highest total in the country, but they've been in the top 25 nationally one other time in the same 10 years.

A year ago, though, Noble Nwachukwu finished with 8 1/2 sacks, WVU's third-highest total in the past 10 years, topped only by Julian Miller's nine in 2009-10 and Johnny Dingle's nine in 2007.

"When he gets one-on-one with anybody in the country, Gibson said, "I think he is good enough to beat them.

The 6-foot-2, 275-pound Nwachukwu ranked fourth in the Big 12 in sacks last season, and he'll be required to apply plenty of pressure once the regular season begins with the Sept. 3 home game against Missouri.

The Mountaineers are comfortable with that.

"He's got a knack for it, defensive line coach Bruce Tall said. "He's really athletic, he's quick and I think as he gets a better feel for everything, he gets better with it. He trusts his moves and he's added a little more to what I call his tool belt.

"He's got a couple patented moves, like all good pass-rushers have, and he's added a couple extra moves to help himself and to free himself in certain situations.

He'll get some help, and WVU will use its bandit and spur safeties and its outside linebacker to blitz and to get sacks, as is the case every season. But pressure from the defensive line, which frequently is there to facilitate the other blitzers, is difficult to predict.

Christian Brown, the team's other starting defensive end, has two sacks in 40 career games. Both were last season. There's just one combined sack among the other five defensive linemen who are on scholarship and available to the defense this season. …

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