The Times West Virginian

October 21, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: Promising season gone in a flash

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — After the goings-on at Milan Puskar Stadium on Saturday night, it is safe to assume that West Virginia University would pay $20 million to get back into the Big East.

That’s how embarrassing this season has become.

Born of great hope with dreams of Big 12 championship and, if things broke their way, a national championship, the season now is little more than a pile of ashes, the deterioration of both the offense and the defense so complete that by the middle of the third quarter the student section was more than half full.

Or is that half empty?

And you know what? No one could blame them.

There really was nothing left for them by then. The score was 45-7, Collin Klein had outplayed Geno Smith so badly that rather than talking about Heisman Trophy for the Mountaineer quarterback it was obvious he wasn’t going to be even the All-Big 12 first team QB.

Why even Smith’s consecutive pass streak was broken — twice.

Smith’s final pass of the first half gave him 327 consecutive passes without an interception — 273 this season to break Trent Dilfer’s NCAA single-season record by one.

His first pass of the second half was tipped high into the air and intercepted by K-State’s warrior of a linebacker Arthur Brown.

His next streak wasn’t quite that long, Kansas State’s Ty Zimmerman picking off yet another pass after his new streak lasted just five passes.

“He was pressing. We all were,” Coach Dana Holgorsen said of Smith. “We talked about it all week. ‘Don’t get impatient. Don’t get impatient.’ You have the ball a couple of times and you look up there and you’re down 17 points. You start pressing. It’s inevitable.”

But you can’t put this one on Geno Smith’s back because it was obvious right from the start that Kansas State was a vastly superior team, so much so that the Mountaineers are probably thankful that they have woeful Kansas scheduled for their final game, because they may need it for their sixth victory to become bowl eligible.

The defense again was shown to be completely inept … which might be complimentary to it.

We could cite you the yardage and touchdown numbers, and to read them is like reading Jules Verne’s science fiction, but there are other ways to illustrate just how incredibly horrible they have been.

One way to look at it is to say this defense has given up 29 touchdowns and two field goals in four Big 12 games. They have made four stops.

Or, to put it another way, they have forced their opponents to punt the ball once in the last 30 possessions entering the fourth quarter when the issue was settled

Of course, for the traditionalists out there — that would be those calling for Don Nehlen’s return about now — they have given up 595 rushing yards and 1,691 yards in four Big 12 games.

That’s more than 400 passing yards per game.

“I don’t want to blame it on the kids. Blame it on me. I can take it,” said beleaguered defensive coordinator Joe DeForest. “I’m OK with that. I’ll tell one thing, we’re gonna work through this. We’re going to fix it. I’m embarrassed about what happened tonight. I’m embarrassed, but it’s my job to make it right. I will make it right.”

DeForest said they had a simple plan, and that they tried everything they could to get it right, but it didn’t happen, couldn’t happen with as many freshmen as he had on the field, eight in all at times.

“It was a simple game plan, but the bottom line is you have to tackle the quarterback and we didn’t do that at times,” he said.

Make that nearly every time.

The result was another embarrassment to add to a season of embarrassing defensive performances, but even with a bye week changes are not forthcoming.

“What do you want me to change?” Holgorsen said. “We played somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 players on defense. They are what we got. We’re going to focus hard on them, especially with all the young guys we have. Those guys will get better and we’ll keep coaching them hard.”

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.