The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

August 24, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: Dominating defense never old-fashioned

MORGANTOWN — Perhaps it’s simply generational confusion, which for whatever reason seems far more palatable than calling it a generation gap, but the way West Virginia University is approaching defense scares the bejeezus out of me.

Certainly I am a relic from another era, but at least it was an era of proven greatness built on solid thinking, most of it coming down to in the sport of football that a team is as good as its defense.

That thinking, however, has gone the way of high-topped football shoes and drop-kicks.

Modern football, which may best be practiced right here at WVU, is a high-tempo, fast-paced, spread-’em-out game where offense is king and defense is … well, what is defense?

That becomes a rather pressing issue as WVU enters the Big 12

We are moved to look into this after viewing an article by Jed Drenning, a one-time quarterback for Rich Rodriguez when he was considered the Dana Holgorsen of football, running his own aerial circus at Glenville State.

Drenning’s website is known as The Signal Caller, and it is as well-written and insightful a website on Mountaineer football as you will find anywhere.

The recent article on WVU’s new defense and its philosophies was, to be honest, frightening to someone who was weaned on the likes of Sam Huff and Dick Butkus, The Monsters of the Midway or the Doomsday Defense.

The article indicates the goal of the West Virginia defense being to cause turnovers, almost exclusively.

Turnovers are great, no doubt, but let us suggest that you can’t count on them happening or on causing them because just as hard as your defense works to cause them, the offense works on avoiding them.

What you don’t hear in the discussion of WVU’s new 3-4 defense is anything about creating three-and-outs, about setting up third-and-long situations, no talk about dominating on that side of the ball.

In fact, the conclusion in Drenning’s article that comes from new defensive coordinator Joe DeForest is this:

“At the end of the game, as long as we have more points than they do – then we’ve done our job,” DeForest said. “We may win ugly at times, but ultimately if you come out on top that means you made a stop to win the game.”

What the hell do you think Bear Bryant would say about that?

All I know about Bear Bryant is what was pointed out by Drenning in his article, and that is before the 1963 Sugar Bowl Bryant said of his defense: “They play like it’s a sin to give up a point.”

And that’s how a defense should think.

True, winning is the ultimate goal on both offense and defense, but to think in any way that you should be pleased with a defensive performance in a 44-41 shootout is coming from the wrong direction.

 See, it was a fluke that the two best defensive teams in the country – Alabama and Louisiana State — met for the national championship last year.

Oh, Drenning suggests that it was a fluke in the article. He notes West Virginia gained 463 passing yards on LSU last season, which it did, but they produced only 21 points … yes, in part because of four turnovers, but I don’t think anyone would argue that the best defensive team won that game.

Now it’s true thinking has to change some, for the way football is played today the offense is ahead of the defense, just as it was back in the early days of the wishbone.

As co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson noted, the standards are different now.

“You can’t look at the same things that you did in the past – low yardage totals, low point totals, things like that. Instead we now look at things like takeaways, sacks, tackles for loss and three-and-outs.”

Ah, finally some recognition for three-and-outs, for actually making plays that stop the offense. See, that has to be the ultimate goal, turnovers and takeaways being part of the equation, but certainly not being the focal point of the defense.

The defense’s job is not simply to see that the offense scores more points, but is instead to create a flow in the game that favors the offense, changes field position either by turnovers or forcing punts, that demoralizes an opponent by its dominance and finally keeps the ball out of the end zone … not just enough to allow the team to win.

A dominating defense, that creates an aura of toughness and superiority, will never become old-fashioned in football and is far more consistent and reliable than an offense that feels it has to outscore every opponent to win.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, Tennessee finalize 2018 meeting

    West Virginia University and Tennessee have finalized their season-opening, Sept. 1, 2018, meeting in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
    Both teams will receive $2.5 million for the game and have a chance to earn up to $3.2 million with ticket incentives.
    Each team will buy 12,500 tickets and set aside 2,000 of its allotment for students.
    The game, played on the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, is being put on by the Charlotte Sports Federation.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Fleming, Billy.jpg WVU’s Fleming signs contract with Yankees

     Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.
    “Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to play professional baseball,” Fleming said. “It is still surreal that I get to chase my dream, but I am ready to get after it. I loved my three years at WVU and want to thank all the coaches that made it possible for me to achieve my dream.”

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Growing demands on college athletes concerns Wyant

    Fred Wyant, one of the greatest quarterbacks in West Virginia University’s history, has lashed out at today’s growing demands on college athletes.
    The 80-year-old Star City resident led the Mountaineers to a 30-4 record as the starter from 1952-1955. Percentage-wise, it’s clearly the best-ever record by a QB in school annals.
    Wyant, a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, came here after graduating with honors from Weston High School. That’s where WVU coach Art “Pappy” Lewis signed him to a four-year scholarship.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 22, 2014

  • Growing demands on college athletes concerns Wyant

    Fred Wyant, one of the greatest quarterbacks in West Virginia University’s history, has lashed out at today’s growing demands on college athletes.

    July 22, 2014

  • WVU’s Fleming signs with Yankees

    Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.

    July 22, 2014

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