“Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships.”
The above has come through the years to be far less than a sports cliché and more a sports truism, almost no matter what the sport.
This leads us to a most interesting question in these parts where, in the West Virginia University football program, it seems that almost more emphasis has been put on selling tickets – or, to be more precise, creating revenue which begins with selling tickets – than anything else.
Certainly when the decision was made three years ago to change change football coaches, the decision was based simply upon offensive football, for the coach who was hired, Dana Holgorsen, had no defensive credentials whatsoever and showed it by making a terrible mistake in hiring his first defensive coordinator after Jeff Casteel exited.
That he moved to correct that mistake before the season was over is to his credit, but it is with a great amount of trepidation that we have watched the current off-season efforts to rebuild the Mountaineers after a dismal second-half collapse left them at 7-6 a year ago with an embarrassing loss in an embarrassing bowl game.
It has seemed as though the emphasis through the off-season was far greater on rebuilding the offense than on the defense.
True, gone was most of the offensive line and nearly all of the offensive skill in quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, but considering that this was a record-setting offense that could produce but seven victories, one must question whether the rebuilding emphasis is being misplaced.
This especially true in an era when the collegiate college champion is Alabama – almost every year, it seems – which is built on defense, and the NFL champion is the Baltimore Ravens, another defense first team.
WVU’s football boss, however, is a man out of a family tree that produced offensive-minded coaches and seemed far more pleased with a 70-63 victory over Baylor than anyone who believes in the adage that defense wins championships ever could be.
What have we heard about all off-season?
We’ve heard about quarterback Clint Trickett and running back Charles Sims transferring in, junior college running back Dreamius Smith coming in, a freight-car full of potential receivers being corralled from high school, junior colleges and even welcomed back after leaving the team.
There were 26 recruits, just 11 of them defensive players … and last year’s defense was by far the worst ever in WVU history and nearly the nation’s worst.
Yes, the offense needed to be rebuilt.
The defense needed to be built.
Changing coordinators and philosophies figures to help some, but there never has been a coach who can win without talent, and there quite obviously was a talent shortage on defense a year ago. Freshmen can only provide so much help for they lack the experience and physical maturity they will have in future years.
Much emphasis, therefore, was put on junior college players, both offensively and defensively, for immediate help, but the truth is if the defensive players can’t immediately fill holes WVU is looking at a difficult time.
This year’s offense, no matter how much help has been procured in the off-season, can’t expect to match the production that came from Smith-Austin-Bailey and Co. a year ago.
The hope is there’s a Bruce Irvin among the junior college players who can provide immediate impact, not just production, to give life to the defense and join known playmakers like Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook in making plays that count.
Winning can only be accomplished if the likes of Brandon Golson, a linebacker out of Georgia Military College; d’Vante Henry, a linebacker out of Western Arizona Community College, or Dontrill Hyman, a defensive tackle out of Hinds Community College, show up capable to harness Big 12 offenses right away.
In the final analysis, the truth is that neither offense nor defense sells tickets.
Winning championships does … and that requires both.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.
“Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships.”
- Bob Herzel
Oklahoma pulls away from WVU, 72-62
Reality hit West Virginia University in the gut Wednesday as No. 23 Oklahoma showed the Mountaineers almost every reason why they are not an NCAA Tournament team this year, pulling away in the second half to a 72-62 victory in Norman.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Lady Mountaineers will always remember their senior season
Taylor Palmer was following a much-traveled path when she packed up her gym shoes four years ago and left Mount Vernon, N.Y., for Morgantown to play basketball.
Lowes Moore and Kevin Jones had both done the same thing and become two of the greatest players West Virginia University had ever produced, each not only playing the game the way it should be played but living life the way it should be lived.
Bradley to give everyone a chance
A day after snubbing the local media by not talking to them on an evening set aside for interviews with assistant coaches, West Virginia University’s latest defensive savior Tom Bradley found 14 minutes to talk to IMG Sports, which possesses the rights to West Virginia sports.
WVU women clinch share of Big 12 title
West Virginia University’s women’s basketball team had just defeated Kansas, 67-60, to lay claim to a share of the Big 12 championship with Baylor on Tuesday night in the Coliseum, and someone had to sum up the feeling for the five seniors who had made the program grow to championship status.
That someone was Christal Caldwell.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Carey sends seniors out the right way
West Virginia women’s coach Mike Carey had just completed putting the finishing touches on cutting down the net, which came moments after he had almost dropped the Big 12 Conference regular-season championship, and now he was standing in front of the media.
Road to NCAA begins tonight for Mountaineers
While they would choose not to believe that it is necessary, it appears the only route West Virginia University has left to the NCAA Tournament – save a miracle run in the Big 12 Tournament to the tournament championship – is to run the table through its final two regular-season games.
New coaches bring different dynamic to WVU
Tom Bradley, the veteran former Penn State assistant coach, had a million reasons to leave a broadcasting job with the Pittsburgh Steelers and take on a job as senior associate head coach under Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia University.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Squires comes from swimming background
It was a weekend to remember, to be sure, and would have been even without the snow.
Adrian steps up when called upon
A year in, and with their season on life support but not yet dead, West Virginia is getting help from a place it hadn’t planned to turn to for big help this season – Nathan Adrian.
WVU women ready for Big 12 championship
What was accomplished Sunday afternoon in Waco, Tex., with the most improbable finish off a season filled with improbable finishes really started a couple of years back for the West Virginia women’s basketball team that tries to close out a Big 12 championship season with a victory over Kansas on Senior Night.
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