Ironically, it was Lubbock, Texas' own Buddy Holly who penned and sang the song "That'll be the day." I never, ever thought I would see the day when West Virginia University football would be a national defensive laughing stock. Well, my friends, that day is here.
How can WVU’s defense be that bad? 676 yards surrendered to Texas Tech? Bob Hertzel pointed in his Sunday column that our school’s football team had never in its history had a defense that gave up 600 yards in a game. Now we’ve done it twice in one season. So, how does WVU’s defense go from giving up 348 yards per game in 2011 to giving up 496 per game this season? Only time will tell if if DeForest & Co. can pull this defense out of a flat spin before Goose breaks his neck when trying to eject.
Here’s my analysis from the top down:
Coaching: Not only is the 3-4 scheme new to a group of WVU players who had previously been operating in a 3-3-5 stack defense, but it is new to DeForest as a first time defensive coordinator. Almost everyone (except, it seems, Dana Holgorsen) struggles in his or her first year on any job. But that is even more so when you’re in your first year on the job as a first time coordinator. I have to believe that Joe DeForest has been feeling a bit in over his head this fall, and when the critics start writing about how bad you are (his defense is being maligned on every sports network and website), it’s got to shake your confidence. All this to say, the coaches (and the D.C. in particular) are operating under a lot of pressure and its having a net effect on play calling, making them tentative and risk averse.
Line Strength & Experience: Last year we had a defensive line that really got a push off the ball. Bruce Irvin were in their final years of eligibility, stronger than most linemen are in their first years in college, and full of confidence. Our current defensive line is full of lots of potential but not a lot of power, and hence is causing very little trouble for opposing quarterbacks. It is amazing how a great defensive line can make an average defensive backfield look good. In the absence of a good defensive line, a secondary is going to show its true colors.and
Secondary Speed & Intelligence: I’ve been given strict orders not to call out any individual players in these columns, but now I don’t have to because Sean McDonough did it for me. Two years ago we had one of the great defensive backfields in WVU history; it ranked 11th nationally and featuring current NFL players Robert Sands, Brandon Hogan and Keith Tandy. These guys were not only gifted but really smart, too. Only true freshman safety Karl Joseph has Grade A talent, but he is young and still learning. The other guys seem to lack the skills and wherewithal to get the job done, at least without significant help.
Our defensive "Achilles Heel" is a relatively new phenomenon in Mountaineer football history. We used to have a defense that was known as a "bend but not break" scheme. Now we have one that is like an old pair of underwear featuring an elastic band that has been stretched beyond repair. And it is simply depressing.