Winning is a salve for just about everything, and that was certainly the case as Gary Patterson, with a two game win streak in his pocket, greeted reporters in his weekly Tuesday Zoom press conference.
Patterson was certainly serious as he spoke of the challenge that lies ahead for the Horned Frogs in Morgantown Saturday, a place that has not treated them well their last two trips. He had already waxed poetic on how good the Mountaineers defensive line is during Monday’s coaches’ call, and he doubled down Tuesday about the strength of the program as a whole. “Neal Brown has done a good job; they’ve played well. They’re one of the better defenses, offensively they’re big across the board”, Patterson said. “Every week, if you haven’t noticed across the Big 12, you better get ready to play. They’re a good football team; they’ve played better at home than on the road, but the other part is they’ve played some pretty good teams.”
He also took a moment to recognize the West Virginia fans, and the atmosphere in Morgantown, one of his favorite places to play. “I’ve always loved going to West Virginia because their fans are so radical about their football. The more names I get called, the more fun it is for me.”
Patterson also mentioned the improvement of his own defensive line, and the confidence the group as a whole has gained since playing Oklahoma. “Success brings confidence. That young group we have up front, they need confidence. Every week they have more success,: they’ve found out that they can play. The other thing is they've learned the defense; I can call more stuff and the stuff we work on, they can do it faster,” he said. Patterson also reminded reporters just how young the unit is as a whole. “Three or four of them are freshmen; at least four guys have never gone out there and played with us.”
As the defensive front improves, the secondary — expected at the onset of the season to be a strength — continues to suffer under the weight of injuries. Patterson joked last week that he might have to suit up and take snaps “I’ll take a couple reps today but it will be deep —I’m not going to be pressing or both hammies will go” — and mentioned that he might get creative in his personnel. “We will move some people. I won’t tell you who, but Deante Gray once played there and didn’t allow any catches.” He also spoke of one of the team’s stars, Ar’Darius Washington, who has been solid in 2020 but not putting up the spectacular stats of 2019. Patterson doesn’t seemed to be concerned about that, though. “Sometimes young players get to a point where they think they have to do certain things for it to be a successful year, but I’ve stressed on him he just has to play his position and things will come to him.” Washington led the team with five interceptions a season ago, but that fact isn’t lost on opponents, who have gone out of their way to avoid the ball-hawking safety. “The game dictates whether you're going to get the ball or not, route structure, and formation are going to dictate whether he’s going to have a chance to make a play or not.”
Overall, he has been happy with “the guys that are here”, making a point to say “I really appreciate the guys that are here, their chemistry, what they’ve fought through.” He acknowledged that the defense has to play better in the fourth quarter and the offense do a better job in the passing game, but knows how hard his team is working. He hopes to reward them at the end of a very long, and very strange season. “We’ve made it through six [games] and are trying to get through seven, trying to get the nine games and get to a bowl game. It would be fun for our kids to get back to a bowl game after everything they've gone through.” The Frogs hope to be one win closer to that goal Saturday.