By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
November 8, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Julian Miller was obviously listening when Bill Stewart told the team that each player needed to do a little more after West Virginia’s 30-19 loss at South Florida on Oct. 30.
It was Miller’s sacks on consecutive plays at the end of the game that put the lid on Louisville’s coffin in a surprisingly difficult 17-9 Mountaineer victory Saturday afternoon in Morgantown.
“I was really pleased with Julian Miller,” said Stewart. “He had three sacks and I thought he was just a real force out there, particularly when he was the only starter on the defensive line playing.”
Miller was the only recognizable defensive lineman on the field Saturday. The Mountaineers were without regulars Chris Neild, Scooter Berry and versatile backup Josh Taylor for the entire second half.
“It’s crunch time,” Miller explained. “You’ve got to step up. Coach Stew has been preaching all week, ‘Just give a little more.’ That’s one of the things that I definitely tried to do was to give a little more toward the end.”
Trailing by eight with a touchdown and a two-point conversion needed to tie the game, Louisville quarterback Will Stein was sacked on back-to-back plays by Miller, who finished the game with three sacks and three tackles for losses.
Miller just missed another opportunity to bring down Stein a fourth time on Stein’s incomplete pass attempt to Scott Long on Louisville’s final offensive play of the game.
“If I wasn’t as winded on that last play I think I would have been able to get it,” Miller said.
Miller’s sacks on Louisville’s final drive were the result of him simply beating his man and getting to the quarterback.
“The first one was actually a game. I came off on the outside with Ovid (Goulbourne). I wrapped around him,” Miller said. “The tackle stayed on him so that left me a clear shot to the quarterback.
“The second one I was tired. I got back down and I was just supposed to shoot the A-gap and the guard didn’t have any help from the center so it was one-on-one with the guard and I beat him right up the middle,” he mentioned.
Miller knew early that he could take advantage of a Louisville offensive line that was giving up a Big East-worst three sacks per game.
“I noticed that the tackles and the guards were not as quick dropping back on a pass rush. They were playing pretty heavy on the run today and they were actually down in run stances all day,” Miller explained. “Once I actually keyed on that and realized what they were doing I just converted off of the run to the pass which was affecting them a lot.”
Stein wasn’t nearly as mobile as South Florida’s B.J. Daniels was two weeks ago, but he did present problems when he went back to pass.
“We had to find him first,” Miller said. “He was behind those tackles and guards and it was almost like he was hiding behind them. That definitely gave him an advantage but once we got around the guard and the tackles it helped us out a lot getting pressure on him.”
Miller’s performance was much needed. For long stretches of Saturday’s game West Virginia had trouble establishing an offensive rhythm that led to Louisville having a 69-57 advantage in total plays, and a 32:54-27:06 edge in time of possession.
Then when Neild and later Berry went to the sidelines that caused Louisville to try and pound the football between the tackles against West Virginia’s smaller defensive line that consisted of 268-pound Jorge Wright, 252-pound Larry Ford and 251-pound Julian Miller.
“It kind of affected us more than we would have liked,” Miller said of not having the team’s three best run stoppers. “They got a couple nice runs off of us. Obviously we’re underweight in that aspect when it comes to the run, and we like to have bigger guys in there. But for the most part we held our own. When there were chances to make plays we made them.”
Ford actually had to move from defensive end, where he backs up Miller, to nose tackle. Miller said the two were encouraging each other during the game.
“I try to pick him up at times and he tries to pick me up at times. On sidelines he was picking me up. In the first half I wasn’t playing as good as I could have been and he was over there picking me up,” Miller said. “In the second half when he was playing nose guard, I was just staying in his head telling him, ‘Come on keep playing, we’re in this together.’ I would say in a way we coached each other.”
Miller is quietly putting together an outstanding season as a sophomore – his first year as a full-time starter. Miller now has 8 ½ sacks after yesterday’s three-sack performance against Louisville, while also producing a team-best 11 ½ tackles for losses.
That’s 20 negative yardage plays in just nine games. Those numbers immediately stand out when you start looking at West Virginia’s defensive statistics.
“It can only put more confidence in me,” Miller said. “I’m a first-year starter and looking on down the road this helps me feel like I can really be a big-time contributor to the defense, rather than just another guy that’s a part of the defense.”
What Julian did against Louisville couldn’t have come at a better time for West Virginia, because the Mountaineers are going to need another big-time performance from Miller Friday night at Cincinnati to slow down a No. 4-rated Bearcat team that put up 47 points Saturday night against Connecticut.
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