The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

November 14, 2013

WVU’s Barber, Dillon done for season

MORGANTOWN — It is difficult to explain how it happens, but there is a certain rhythm in this world in which we live, an inexplicable rhythm that affects almost everything we do.

There really isn’t much in life that doesn’t run this way, certainly least of all being football, where you can see it almost on a daily basis no matter which team or even which player you want to follow.

Why do two guys get hit the very same way, one goes down and bounces directly back onto his feet unscathed, the other helped to the sideline where all they can do is put ice on his knee and schedule him for surgery?

Coaches simply shrug publicly, say injuries are part of the game, say they’re sticking the backup in there and move on. While privately you know they curse their luck, ask over and over, “Why me?” or, “Why us?” They put forward a brave face and do the best they can.

But how it happens and why defies description, just as West Virginia University head coach Dana Holgorsen and his defensive coordinator Keith Patterson are learning this season.

“We are pretty beat up. It’s game 11. I think everyone is beat up at this point,” Holgorsen said in his Tuesday media briefing.

He then went on to announce that linebacker Jared Barber, the team’s leading tackler who had started the last seven consecutive games, had been lost for the year to knee injury.

“He was playing at an extremely high level; the effort was great; his attitude is tremendous. He’s been one of the team leaders for us on defense. He’s out with an ACL. He’ll have surgery in the next week, we’ll lose him for the next six months,” Holgorsen said.

The words had barely stopped echoing through the room when Holgorsen dropped another bombshell.

“K.J. Dillon just got released from the hospital. He has severe dehydration, which his body had an adverse reaction to. He was in ICU for a couple days. He’s just getting out of the hospital now, but he’s on the shelf for the rest of the season,” Holgorsen said.

Two more players out for the season, two more defenders.

It is difficult to explain why the injury jinx has struck the WVU defense, especially at a time when it has been showing flashes of improving, playing more than half of nearly every recent game about as well it is capable of playing before running out of steam.

Depending upon how you count, there are 9 or 10 or 11 guys who were starters or could have been starters who were taken from the defense over the year.

Think about it.

Patterson has.

“I think I counted 15 guys on defense who are on the injury report, and 10 of those guys are out for the season. You can’t use that as an excuse. That’s just football. It’s a tough sport, and it’s part of the game,” said Patterson.

You may not be able to use it as an excuse, but you can use it as an explanation.

Think of the defensive players who are out for the year … Jared Barber, Christian Brown, K.J. Dillon, Dozie Ezemma, Nana Kyeremeh, Shaq Petteway, Doug Rigg and Wes Tonkery.

Remember, a college team can’t go to the waiver wire.

This wasn’t “The Doomsday Defense” to start with, but its own version of a doomsday defense. Sixteen different players have missed games, 74 games as best can be counted.

All of a sudden Tyler Anderson and Jewone Snow, himself victimized by injuries for most of his career at WVU and before, now must move forward for the final two games as WVU tries to earn bowl eligibility and a .500 season.

With Barber out, this is how Holgorsen sees the linebacker situation.

“Nick Kwiatkoski has played at an extremely high level. We are thankful that he has. Tyler Anderson is going to get snaps inside. We’ve moved him all around. He’s been playing fantastic on special teams. Jewone Snow had his best game on special teams; he’ll get reps. Sean Walters is another young guy that needs to step up. They don’t have the experience to have been playing at the level that Barber and Rigg have. They need to take advantage of this opportunity and play ball.”

Dillon’s injury will be as difficult for the defense to absorb as Barber’s.

“K.J. provided something for us because he was able to play man; he was an explosive blitzer; he could make plays out in space,” Patterson said.

“He was a little bit more versatile, and that’s why he is tougher to replace. He could play deep safety. He could play man-to-man. We could kick him down and do some things with him.”

Patterson has tried to keep his reserves ready for moments like this.

“People just have to step in,” he said. “I’ve been telling them they are one play away from being a starter. You have to prepare. It may be game 11 before you get that shot to play. Now, it’s game 11, and there are guys who are going to be thrown out there. They have to step up and execute and make plays. You can’t use that as an excuse.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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