MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Dante Stills always dreamed of playing in the Backyard Brawl, especially as a West Virginia native. He remembers his dad Gary, a former WVU linebacker, talking about the rivalry and its importance.
In his final season as a Mountaineer, he finally got the opportunity to make his own history against the Panthers.
The outcome wasn’t what he hoped for but it still couldn’t overshadow his performance.
“Best football game he has played in his career. He played within the scheme and was still really productive,” head coach Neal Brown said. “He was mentally in the game. It is the best shape he’s ever been in. He looked like what we expect him to look like. I felt like it was his best complete football game he’s played in our time here.”
Stills led the charge for a defensive front that was disruptive all game. His final stat line read 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a quarterback hurry.
While those numbers were enough to give his team a chance, it’s what he was able to do off the stat sheet that made his showing even more impressive.
“We talk about this with him individually but I talk to the team about, too, is your statistics don’t always tell the story,” Brown said. “Sometimes Jared Bartlett may get the sack but it was Dante that made the play. What I mean by that is he created a double team that got Jared freed up.”
“So statistically, Dante had a good game but he did a good job creating opportunities so the other guys could get statistics, too, in the framework of the defense which is a credit to him.”
Creating those extra opportunities was a focal point of the offseason work for Stills. His effort is never something defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley is ever worried about.
Being able to show those improvements both physically and fundamentally on the field is just the start of the special season the staff is anticipating.
“It’s the most complete game he’s played within his job and fundamentally, and it showed,” defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said. “I thought he played hard.”
Stills is WVU’s active leader in career sacks (20.5) and tackles for loss (45.5). He currently ranks No. 3 all-time in career TFLs. Julian Miller holds the record with 49.
As Stills chases down that record, he also has the opportunity to surpass his dad in the record books. Gary is tied with Miller for second in career sacks. Stills is 6.5 sacks away.