I think before getting into this, it's probably a good idea to take into account that if Holgorsen's offense doesn't perform at the same level it has at other stops the answer will be yes. But since I and pretty much everyone else that bleeds old gold and blue thinks the new offense is going to add another 15-20 points a game, we'll just take that as a given. At least until we are proven wrong.
At its best, Jeff Casteel’s defense can be a nightmare for opposing offenses. It’s about speed, stopping the run, and being patient enough to let the other team make the first mistake. Because the 3-3-5 stack defense is so rarely used by college teams, just getting the scout team lined up in the right spot can be a challenge for opposing teams. At it's worst, it's still pretty good. But we can all remember times when we have played a team with an experienced, talented quarterback like Brian Brohm, that the defense has given up some big plays and a lot of yards. Thankfully, we haven't run into too many of those.
In order to answer this question, we need to look at some stats to come up with some sort of prediction. The most obvious thing for me to do was to go back to the 2006 season when WVU had to replace a lot of talent on the defense. It was also one of the best years offensively for WVU in that there were a lot of 50+ yard touchdowns. A lot of quick strike drives. The kind of things we expect to happen this year.
And yikes, that does not make this year look very promising from a defensive point of view.
Don't get me wrong, the points per game given up was great. There's a lot that goes into those 2006 numbers, though. Louisville and Rutgers (rushing) were both very potent offenses that year. And Pitt wasn't completely awful. But there were also a ton of really bad offenses on our schedule that year. No one was running against us because passing seemed like such a good option. The offense was racking up 461 yards a game. Again, a lot of it in quick strike fashion. So teams had to pass to keep up with us. One of the more interesting stats to me was that from 2006-2010 we had 16,16,17,17,12 interceptions respectively. You would have thought that the interceptions would have been higher with all the extra passes the defense had to defend in 2006. But it turned out to be the norm.
One thing the stats I'm looking at doesn't have is the comparison between the first half and the second half. Because to me, that would be a telling stat for Casteel. He had no chance to make adjustments on the fly in 2006 because they were back out on the field in a matter of a few minutes. But over the years, we have seen the defense stiffen in the second half after some halftime adjustments.
But perhaps Casteel learned something from the 2006 season. In 2008 he found himself sending his unit back on the field a lot sooner that he had wished. But it wasn't because we were scoring in bunches. In fact, I would say he saw a lot of that the last three years. I may be wrong, but he was also put in a lot tighter situations because of the shortcomings of the offense over the last three years.
As a fan, I want to lean on that last paragraph more than anything else. But being a realist, I have to believe that we are going to see shades of 2006 this year. Will it be as bad as 2006? I don't think so. I do believe Casteel has learned from that year, as well as the rest that followed. He has some question marks, but he also has some answers at every level of the defense. I think the style of offense we will play would hurt any defense because of having to get back on the field so quickly. But in the big picture it's the same offense that scores points and forces opposing teams out of what they want to do and into what they have to do. And when they are forced to pass to keep up, that guy pictured at the top of this post will have a field day.
Stats via cfbstats.com