Feeling pressure

Mountaineer defense now in Patterson’s hands

West Virginia’s defense was often shredded by Big 12 teams last season. Patterson is in his first full year as the team’s defensive coordinator.

[cleeng_content id="197646762" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]It’s Kevin Patterson’s turn to sit on the hot seat. Patterson has been handed the responsibility of being West Virginia University’s defensive coordinator. Is that an enviable coaching position? It’s at a major university trying to compete in one of the country’s premier football conferences. It’s a position where success could easily bring enough media attention to make your name known to athletic directors across the breadth of the college football landscape.

Keith Patterson will try to energize the 2013 WVU defense.

Keith Patterson will try to energize the 2013 WVU defense.

But is it an enviable position?

Last year, the Mountaineers — despite being gouged for 63 points, 45 points and 34 points in three games — had a 5-0 record and a sky-high national ranking.

With Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin continually piling points on the first five opponents, WVU was still unbeaten despite its obvious defensive shortcomings.

The bubble burst.

The Mountaineers lost five straight times — all conference games.

Losses came when the Mountaineer offense quit scoring in a dizzying fashion.

Defensive woes were magnified. Opponents were finding all the ways to do most of the scoring in Mountaineer games.

Texas Tech had 49 points in winning by 35 points. Kansas State was in Morgantown when it stoned the Mountaineers, 55-14. It took Texas Christian two overtimes, but the 39 points the Horned Frogs had were enough. The Cowboys of Oklahoma State generated another 55 points in winning by 21 points. Along came Oklahoma. And the Boomer Sooners moved all over the green artificial turf at Mountaineer and scored 50 points.

A change was made along the way.

Joe DeForest was removed as defensive coordinator.

Deep into the season, Keith Patterson was handed the difficult assignment of accepting the role of defensive coordinator.

A miracle worker Patterson wasn’t.

But the Mountaineers managed to win their last two games and qualified for a bowl game. The bowl assignment was not in the Land of Cotton or even the Land of Oranges. Of all places not to play a football game that was a supposed reward for the players, WVU was stationed in New York, New York in late December. Yankee Stadium with its saturated natural grass field was the “reward” for the 7-5 season.

Now, as the beginning to the 2013 season looms closer, there are no players at quarterback named Smith and no wide receivers named Austin or Bailey.

West Virginia’s offense is unlikely to be as prolific as it was last season.

What will Coach Patterson do to bring about positive changes to the Mountaineer defense?

Coach Patterson (middle) is shown with head coach Dana Holgorsen (left) and another assistant coach.

Coach Patterson (middle) is shown with head coach Dana
Holgorsen (left) and another assistant coach.

He won’t have a half dozen faces who were either starters in 2012 or played significant minutes.

He will have outside expectations tossed his way.

And those expectations will be coming from a lot of different angles and areas. The head coach wants to see positive results. Pressure on Dana Holgorsen will be heavy and constant. The athletic director will be waiting to see improvement. Even Oliver Luck will feel increased pressure after last season’s finish.

Donors seem to believe their contributions automatically bring more wins, more glory and a more comfortable bowl site than snow and rain and 37 degree temperatures in a mostly open stadium. Season ticket holders are often vocal. Alumni don’t want the uneasiness of trying to figure out what has gone wrong. Students show their disapproval by staying away from home games or leaving after the WVU band has performed at halftime.

Coach Patterson is affiable enough. He has a wife and two daughters and two more step children. He has a master’s degree and has been coaching football somewhere since 1986. Oklahoma is where he was born.

His college stops before arriving in Morgantown were with Tulsa’s Golden Hurricane and the Pittsburgh Panthers. At Pitt, he was made interim head coach in 2011.

And now the gnawing responsibility of improving WVU’s overall defense falls on his shoulders.

Many of his best players are young or inexperienced. Or both.

Just before the end of summer camp, the defensive depth chart lists senior starters Will Clarke, Darwin Cook, Doug Rigg and Shaq Rowell. The juniors on top of the position lists are Travis Bell, Brandon Golson, Jared Barber, and Ishmael Banks. Karl Joseph, Isaiah Bruce and Eric Kinsey are the sophomores that went through the last 11-on-11 drills as first-team players.

Patterson doesn’t have All-America type talent at his disposal. He may not have any all-conference types on this team.

What he has are players who felt the slings and arrows aimed from all avenues at last season’s oft-clumsey performances. What he has is the sure-to-be pressure heaped on him to hold down the touchdowns that sometimes came too easy against WVU last season.

 

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