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by Chris Errington
MORGANTOWN -- With head coach Don Nehlen saying Nate Terry, West Virginia's lone returning starter in the defensive secondary, is possibly gone for the season, things are bad for the Mountaineers.
With 2-0 Tulsa bringing the nation's No. 3 offense Saturday, things just got worse.
Terry, out after dislocating his clavicle near his windpipe, will be replaced by fourth-year player Scooter Davis or third-year corner Perlo Bastien at the short corner. Either way, both players know they'll be tested early and often.
"This is a statement for us," said Davis, who would be making his first career start. "Adversity always keeps this team tight. And now we're going through it again."
Despite the secondary's inexperience, it may be on special teams where Terry is missed most. After returning two kickoffs for a WVU-record 100 yards a year ago, Terry led the team this year with an 18.5-yard average on kickoffs and led the Big East with a 13.5-yard average on punt returns.
True freshman Antonio Brown replaces Terry on both teams.
"You don't go out there looking to replace a guy like Nate Terry. He's in a league by himself," Brown said. "My job is to make sure we don't miss a beat with me in there and him out."
Terry's injury comes at a bad time. Veteran defensive coordinator Steve Dunlap says Tulsa's attack is like none he's seen before.
"They're a nightmare to prepare for," Dunlap said.
Said secondary coach Jerry Holmes, "Tulsa does a lot of different things offensively. They try to confuse you on defense. We've got a lot of guys playing out of position, so Terry's injury is devastating."
One way the WVU coaching staff says it can compensate for Terry's loss is by using more zone coverage, including nickel packages.
"Anytime you get more cover guys out there it helps," Holmes said. "The only problem is once we put our guys out there, we have to stick with them because Tulsa runs such a quick offense."
With Tulsa running everything from three-, four- and five-wide sets at receiver to option plays with only the quarterback in the backfield, WVU defensive tackle John Thornton said any help the line provides will be minimal.
"They run so many quick passes, timing passes, that it's hard to get any pass rush," Thornton said. "Our secondary is going to have to play well, that's for sure."
After one day of practice with the first team, Davis believes that won't be a problem -- and his teammates agree.
"We just want to come out defensively and pound those (small wide receivers) and not let them get any momentum," Davis said. "They have a lot of different looks, but we're prepared for anything they run. We're not worried at all."
n Quarterback Marc Bulger and wide receiver Khori Ivy were named offensive champions and Thornton defensive champion in West Virginia's 42-20 thrashing of Maryland last Saturday.
n Former West Virginia punter Todd Sauerbrun, who now plays with the Chicago Bears, has a torn knee ligament.
Sauerbrun may be able to play sometime later this season with a knee brace, since the tear is in his left knee and he kicks with his right leg.
But coach Dave Wannstedt isn't sure, because "after you kick the ball you have to run down the field and possibly make a tackle."