In a season that has filled with ups and downs on the defensive line, one player is beginning to emerge.
Freshman defensive lineman Lamonte McDougle has stepped up for a struggling defensive line this season and played a key role in shutting down the Kansas offense late in the fourth quarter in West Virginia’s Big 12 opener last Saturday.
“He looked different than the rest of them out there, which is why he was the player of the game,” Holgorsen said. “I’m glad we had one of them that filled gaps and got off blocks and made some plays.”
McDougle’s ability to use his hands to get off blocks and be disruptive was seen when he sacked Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender and forced a key fumble in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s win.
“I don’t know how many snaps he got, it wasn’t a ton,” Holgorsen said. “Getting to the quarterback and making that play, that was a legit play. So, good for him. He’ll probably be playing more.”
Through four games, McDougle has racked up seven tackles, one sack and one forced fumble.
McDougle’s performance was one of the few positives from that came out of the defensive line’s performance against Kansas. The defense as a whole allowed 367 rushing yards to a Kansas offense that averaged 109 rushing yards per game entering the matchup.
Holgorsen emphasized the importance of the defensive line to improve on staying stout and shedding blocks.
“If you don’t get off blocks and make the tackle as a (defensive) lineman, you guys know with this defense, you better occupy a couple of people in there and free up linebackers and make plays,” Holgorsen said. “Our job as coaches is to practice and get these guys better and to play people we feel are the best guys for the roles that we’re asking them to do.”
West Virginia’s defensive line will be put to the test when it faces high potent rushing attack in TCU, who has rushed for a Big 12 best 929 yards so far this season.
Moving forward, the coaching will not change its defensive approach when it comes to the run game despite allowing over 300 rushing yards against Kansas. Prior to the Kansas game, the Mountaineers were allowing an average of 175 rushing yards per game.
Instead, the coaching staff will focus on developing its personnel and putting them into positions to succeed.
“I think we know how to coach this defense and we’ve been really good against the run, so we’re probably going to keep coaching it the way we’ve been,” Holgorsen said. “You develop them, put them in the right places and get them ready to go and that’s what we’re going to do moving forward.”