The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

November 19, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: No celebrating this turkey of a defense

MORGANTOWN — Today, this being the Monday of Thanksgiving week, it may be time for a West Virginia University football fan to find some compassion within his passion.

Just this week let us ease up some on the West Virginia defense and its coordinator, Joe DeForest.

Understood, it is difficult at this moment, for it is a defense that seems to have no direction, a defense that already has written its name down as the all-time worst in school history, a defense that gives up more yardage and points than Obama and Romney got votes in this past election.

Only Colorado has given up more points this season, and the 423 points WVU has allowed are more than any previous team at the school has given up with two, or three, games left in the year.

It is unacceptable, inexcusable ... but also something we have come to understand is the norm, just as the 50 points it gave up to Oklahoma were one too many.

But in this holiday week, let us forgive, if not forget, and move on, for no one feels worse than those who have been unable to do things right.

In truth, you even feel for DeForest as he comes out time after time to meet with the media, being cordial always, even in some really tough situations. You long ago have run out of questions about the inadequacies, and DeForest, likewise, has run out of answers.

And so the postgame soiree goes something like this:

“Our kids fought hard. They deserved to win that game; they really did,” he said. “OU just made one more play than we did.”

How many times has he said they had made one more play than West Virginia did? Enough that it really doesn’t matter any more.

He tries to spin it, to make it look as though there is improvement, notes stops in the fourth quarter that allowed WVU to get back into the game and even twice take the lead.

“We were in position to win the game on defense,” he said. “They made more plays than we did on the ball. That’s the bottom line. When the ball is in the air, either they’re going to get it or we’re going to get it. They made the plays.”

This year the opponents always make the plays.

Landry Jones is an old hand at doing it, a cagey senior veteran, and Kenny Stills is equally as cagey and as sure-handed a receiver with the game on the line.

Those two combined twice for scores down the stretch to erase those Mountaineer leads and steal away in the night with the victory.

And West Virginia?

“We fought hard; we played well at times. But ultimately, you have to make a stop at the right time,” DeForest said.

But today we’re offering forgiveness and looking for good things.

It’s hard to do on a defensive team that can’t find cornerbacks that can cover anyone.

In a very late-night, early-morning fog following the Oklahoma game it appeared that a friend had drunk of the West Virginia wine and was talking the talk that the defense did seem improved. He tried to make his case and it made some sense, right up until it was pointed out that there were 50 points on the scoreboard.

Fifty! Half a hundred!

It was as many points as Bob Huggins’ basketball team scored in its first game.

Oh, there is the idea that the Mountaineers have been good against the run, which made the way Bob Stoops called the game for Oklahoma Saturday night absolutely infuriating to watch, for he insisted on running and running when it seemed that had they just thrown the ball they could have named the score and not wound up in a shootout.

The fact that they stopped the run and completed a lot of passes over the middle helped make the two safeties, freshman Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook, into tackling machines, Cook getting out of the coaching staff’s doghouse like a snarling pit bull as both finished with 10 tackles.

The coaches have done all they can changing players around. That hasn’t helped, and things are no better now than when they gave up 63 points to Baylor in their first Big 12 game in history.

If that is the case, what’s left to change?

Certainly the defensive scheme would be vulnerable, but the coaches maintain it is what you have to play in the Big 12, although it is difficult to imagine how you can think a defense that gives up more than 40 points and often 50 in almost every Big 12 game, no matter who is playing, is the right defense to play.

And then there are the coaches ... but this is Thanksgiving week, so the less said there, the better.

Besides, they have to get ready for an Iowa State that scored 50 points this past Saturday night against Kansas, a team that gives up 16 fewer points a game in conference play than WVU.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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