WVU Finds a Match in the Middle
WVU’s defensive middle has been the bright side for the Mountaineer defense. Will that trend continue with Oklahoma State coming to Morgantown this weekend.
Morgantown, W. Va —“(Al-Rasheed) Benton and Lamonte McDougle sweat more than anybody on our team. They sweat. It’s because they play hard. Guys tend to sweat when they play hard,” WVU’s Dana Holgorsen said at his weekly press conference.
One thing that is always a positive, is when the head ball coach notices your work ethic. Holgorsen was asked earlier if he thought Freshman defensive tackle McDougle had improved in the same fashion as Senior linebacker Benton. Holgorsen was very blunt in referencing that there are four years between the two players, but the one thing they do have in common is how hard they work.
McDougle, a three-star recruit from Deerfield Beach, FL, has quickly made a name for himself in Morgantown. Maybe not to the surprise of the coaching staff, but it is not everyday a true freshman defensive tackle works himself into a consistent rotation let alone a starting role on Tony Gibson’s defense. Even Holgorsen recognizes that.
“It doesn’t happen very often. It probably helps when your dad is a 17-year vet in the NFL. He’s been around it for a long time. But, yeah, I’m certainly glad we have him.” Holgorsen said.
Through seven games McDougle has played in six, registering 13 tackles, four tackles for loss, as well as two sacks and a forced fumble and recovery. Talk about productive. The NFL legacy, has been productive so far, and he is not the only one benefitting from the fruits of his labor. Senior linebacker Benton is seeing his best season in the blue and gold. Benton not only leads the team in tackles, but is also the fifth leading tackler in the Big 12. Part of that can be attributed to McDougle. With Benton playing right behind McDougle, Benton has seen a huge rise in his numbers, compared to years past.
“Just because he is in front of me. So he is allowing me to make plays.” Benton said of McDougle, “I just see him in the backfield every play. He will come to me in the middle of the game and tell me this Center can’t block me, and you like to see that confidence out of your young guys.” Benton concluded.
The two have been a match made in heaven so far, and has gained momentum and improved each week they have played together. Last week against Baylor, McDougle stepped up with three tackles and a sack. Behind him, Benton put together an eight tackle day, with four for a loss, and a sack and a half. Pretty productive for the duo in the middle. With a big game against Oklahoma State on the horizon, the Mountaineers will need that kind of performance or better from these two. The good thing is Benton knows the recipe.
“We have to get in the quarterback’s face” Benton said, “We have to rattle the quarterback, force him to make mistakes…They do a good job of not allowing you to get turnovers. So we have to force him to make throws he does not want to make.” Benton said.
The Mountaineers have the combo to create the pressure, now to see if the mistakes will follow.