The Times West Virginian

Breaking News

WVU Sports

October 30, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN-WVU’s defense needs to dig down deep

MORGANTOWN — Dana Holgorsen had missed the morning paper in Morgantown on Monday, something most college football coaches have learned to do when they have lost two consecutive games as his West Virginia Mountaineers had done.

They had done so in such a way that there really wasn’t anything he or any of his staff could learn by reading the newspaper, the offense having scored just 28 points in two games after having averaged nearly twice that per game through their first five.

And that wasn’t even the big problem. What they had created was a defense for which there was no defense. It had given up 279 points in the first seven games, an average of 39.9 points per game. Spread that out over a season of 13 games and it comes to 518 points, leaving the season record of 364 season points further behind than speedy wideout Tavon Austin would leave center Joey Madsen behind in a

100-yard dash.

In truth, it has created a tremendous embarrassment for a school that used to rely heavily upon its defensive work ... a school that has sent eight players into the NFL draft over the past three years without sending an offensive player.

It obviously has gotten under the skin of many, for the Morgantown newspaper that Holgorsen failed to read included strong comments from three recent graduates about the lack of WVU defense ... not just the failure to tackle men carrying the football or cover receivers running routes to catch it, but more for an attitude that best could be described — and was described — as a lack of pride.

Former defensive players Chris Neild, J.T. Thomas and Julian Miller spoke out about it Monday morning, indicating that there was little pride on this defense, a defense that is run by a first-year coordinator in Joe DeForest and that is loaded with youth trying to perform in what is a new defensive scheme.

All of that — an inexperienced coordinator and nearly all new defensive coaching staff teaching a new defense to young players — would indicate a potential problem, but that isn’t what bothers these former players. They are bothered that they seem to care more than those involved in the program today care.

Pride, Neild said, was lacking and he should know, for he was one of the proudest defenders ever here, a rock in the middle that wound up with the Washington Redskins because of that pride.

“I’ve watched WVU games and I don’t see that kind of pride on the defensive side. I don’t see people swarming. I don’t see them attacking. Guys from my class — J.T. Thomas, Bruce Irvin, Scotter Berry, Anthony Leonard — we notice that stuff,” he was quoted as saying.

There were other things said by the three men, and we will get to them, but when this was brought up to Holgorsen during the Monday morning Big 12 media call, he offered little in the way of concern about it.

“I’m not sure who said that and I don’t care who said that,” he said. “We have been telling our players to worry about what we say inside here. We don’t listen to what is said on the outside.”

Now that is an understandable statement from a head coach. If he agrees with the talk he would be indicating that he was leaning toward making changes, either in the defense or the people coaching it or playing it, and if he disagrees with it he looks as if he’s a stubborn fool, for the one thing he can’t say is that it has worked out.

But the fact is that what he has done has been an abject failure to date. The worst part is not that it gives up nearly 50 points — or more — every time on the field but that it has shown nothing in the way of improvement.

And while all the right things have been said by the offense about the defense, you can bet there are whispers about having to score more than 50 points to have any chance to win, a pressurized situation that can’t last or work.

Two straight losses in which the offense scored but 14 points well can be the product of being under such heavy pressure, game after game, week after week, knowing that so much as a fumble or an interception can beat them ... even a four-and-out.

A team, almost no team, can score 50 or more every time it walks on the field, and that is what WVU has been looking at.

So now the question is what to do about it. One would not imagine changing either coaches or systems in mid-season and certainly they have tried just about every available player, some of them holding their own but too many either too young, too inexperienced or lacking in some other area.

What’s lacking? Maybe an attitude that Neild said his defenses possessed.

“When we played in 2010, we played with anger,” Neild said. “We didn’t care who we played because we wanted to stop everybody. Maybe we lose a couple of games, but we always knew that there was another series, another game. We had each others’ backs. I think that’s the difference between then and now. And it’s a huge issue.”

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

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos