MORGANTOWN — Toyous Avery’s smashing hit on Jarrett Guarantano let loose plenty of pent-up energy, not to mention the Tennessee quarterback’s helmet. The iconic defensive play from West Virginia’s 40-14 win in Charlotte became a breakthrough for the senior slowed by injury last season.
“I think we watched that play about 15 or 20 times on Sunday,” said Mountaineers safeties coach Matt Caponi. “It made Toyous feel good to get one of those pops.”
On a third-and-14 near midfield, WVU showed its dime package but blitzed seven defenders. Avery timed it perfectly from his Bandit safety spot, racing untouched off the right edge and barely beating defensive end Jabril Robinson to the quarterback.
Guarantano was battered as he hurried a deep sideline throw that sailed incomplete against man coverage.
“Sure, we’d like to have a sack, but it’s also about how many times we can hit the quarterback,” Caponi said. “If he gets the ball out quickly, we want to make him pay for it.
“Most of the times we pressured, we were able to get some licks on him, and over the course of four quarters that takes a toll.”
It certainly affected Tennessee’s subsequent drop-backs, with Guarantano using rollouts to change the delivery point and prevent WVU from teeing off.
“After that, they didn’t trust him sitting back there in the pocket any more,” said West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “They didn’t trust their front.”
While Avery delivered the game’s biggest hit — along with four tackles and a pass breakup — the senior also committed a coverage mistake that afforded Guarantano an easy fourth-and-goal touchdown toss to tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson.
“Toyous was all over the stat sheet, but he’s got to eliminate some of his missed assignments,” Caponi said. “Sometimes he gets tunnel vision and doesn’t see the big picture.
“On that fourth down, he’s got to understand that we just played great and stopped the run on three plays. He’s got to know that they’re going to throw the ball there, so do your job and cover your tight end.”
Allison ‘ready to roll’ before timeout
When West Virginia quarterback Will Grier lost his helmet on a fourth-quarter sack, backup Jack Allison was anxious to get in the game that he jogged over to head coach Dana Holgorsen.
But with the ball at WVU’s own 9-yard line, Holgorsen called timeout to pre-empt Grier from having to sit out a play. The CBS cameras caught Allison and Holgorsen laughing
Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital appreciated Allison’s enthusiasm nonetheless, and pledged that he would’ve called a pass play for the second-stringer despite the risky field position.
“Jack was ready to roll and I’m confident in that kid,” Spavital said. “I like that from a play-calling standpoint, when he’s poking at me like ‘Let’s throw it.’ In the past I’ve had guys who said, ‘We’re going to hand this one off, right?’ But he was going full-speed.
“When Dana was calling timeout, Jack was like ‘Come on, man.’ I just like where he’s at mentally, where his opportunity was coming and he was going to jump in and take advantage.”
Twitter @GAllanTaylor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.