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COLUMN: Spare the offense hot takes for now, WVU’s defense proved itself against the Sooners

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said it over and over again during Saturday night’s broadcast between WVU and Oklahoma, it was more about the performance of the Mountaineers’ defense than the struggles of the Sooners’ offense.

There will be plenty of takes following the 16-13 WVU loss about what continues to go wrong for Mountaineers’ offense, and there have been through the first three weeks of the season.

The WVU defense is for real, and under head coach Neal Brown, the Mountaineers have ascended to one of the best units not only in the Big 12, but also the nation.

It was always a joke to be the best ‘D’ in the Big 12, because even the best didn’t mean much in the overall college football landscape.

But in 2019, Vic Koenning showed marked improvement after it struggled in 2018 under Tony Gibson. Then, after Koenning’s abrupt exit before the 2020 season, Jordan Lesley and Jahmile Addae teamed up and lifted the defense to an elite level.

Now that Addae is gone, Lesley is the man in charge, and in a showcase game in primetime on ABC, the Mountaineers had Oklahoma fans booing their starting quarterback, who came into the game ranked in the top 10 nationally in yards per game.

All three games against FBS teams — Maryland, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma — came down to the defense needing to make a stop due to the ineptitude of WVU’s offense, which has scored just nine points in the second half against those three teams.

Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, the defense was only able to get the stop it needed against the Hokies.

Still, after losing arguably your three best defenders from last season to the NFL and transfer portal, not many thought that side of the ball would be as competitive as it is.

While moral victories are not what a program is looking for in Year 3 of a head coach’s tenure, the 16 points scored by the Sooners are the fewest they’ve had in a game since the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl, a 40-6 loss to Clemson.

WVU also held OU to just 57 yards rushing with a 2.04 average.

But it ran out of gas.

Despite making play after play to keep the Sooners off the scoreboard, the offense’s inability to build a lead was the death knell as the Mountaineers fall to 2-2 and lose their Big 12 opener.

A lot needs to be answered with the quarterback situation and why the offense completely falls about in the second half, but we’re starting to see what could be a strong brand on defense.

The D will keep the Mountaineers in a lot of games the rest of the year, and there is still a lot of football left with eight games remaining in the regular season.

In a three-point loss to a top 5 team, there has to be a positive takeaway, and the defense has been that more often than not over the last three years.

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