WVU football’s 3-3-5 defense continues to work for team

LAWRENCE, KS - SEPTEMBER 23: Peyton Bender
LAWRENCE, KS - SEPTEMBER 23: Peyton Bender /

The WVU football team hasn’t quite met the lofty expectations of its loyal fans. That might not be complete until the Mountaineers capture that elusive national championship.

However, the WVU football team has a shot to compete for a Big 12 Championship this season. If that is the case, the Mountaineers need to be able to rely on the defense to win games. The offense can put up astronomical numbers, but if the defense can’t stop any conference opponents, the WVU football team will be lucky to fight for a bowl berth, rather than a spot in the inaugural Big 12 Championship Game.

While the defense hasn’t always been a reliable unit in the past decade for the Mountaineers, one aspect can always be relied upon and that’s the 3-3-5 set. The WVU football program has been committed to this scheme since Jeff Casteel was defensive coordinator under former head coach Rich Rodriguez.

This year, the 3-3-5 has allowed too many rushing yards, including 367 by the Kansas Jayhawks in the last game before the bye week. The Jayhawks struggled to run the ball against Central Michigan and Ohio, two MAC teams which beat the Big 12 foe. Kansas had no trouble running up the gut against the Mountaineers.

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The gist of the 3-3-5 is to utilize speed. The WVU football team does have speed on its defensive positions, but that means nothing if they are out of position when the offense makes plays. The 3-3-5 needs every player to be in sync, not missing an assignment.

Weak tackling has also plagued the Mountaineers this season. However, that hasn’t been a problem for Al-Rasheed Benton who leads the team in tackles with 36 tackles on the year. He has been the key stalwart on the defense all season.

Like the 3-3-5, WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson needs reliable guys like Benton to be in position and make plays. When that happens, the 3-3-5 works like it is supposed to work.

"“I think we match up,” Gibson told the Daily Athenaeum. “We can match speed with speed. Now, does it always mean we’re going to be able to stop them? No, but it gives us a better chance than trying to get a linebacker matched up on slot receivers and that kind of thing.”"

According to the Daily Athenaeum, the student publication of West Virginia University, the WVU football team is is allowing 451 total yards per game, which is ranked No. 108 in the country.

The task of stopping the run doesn’t get any easier this week as TCU is led by Darius Anderson, who has 422 yards on the season. The Horned Frogs rushing attack is also aided by Sewo Olonilua and Kyle Hicks who both have more than 125 yards on the season.

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The WVU football team can prove it is for real with a road win against TCU. The 3-3-5 is here to stay, but maybe some fans will get off of Gibson’s back if his squad can pull out a victory.