The Times West Virginian

September 30, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: Not a day for defense

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — At West Virginia, football is spelled — and played — without a D.

That was proven on Saturday, when the Mountaineers beat Baylor, 70-63.

You read that right … 10 touchdowns to nine touchdowns.

How bad was it? The 63 points were the most given up by a West Virginia defense in 108 years.

That’s not a decade. That’s a century, plus eight.

Fielding Yost had one of his point-a-minute offenses at Michigan. WVU had an offense that would score no points in losing, 130-0.

That’s how bad it was. You might put it this way:

An empty bus pulled up to Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium Saturday and the West Virginia defense got off.

There’s no way to get around it, not even in the midst of a victory celebration in the first game the Mountaineers ever played in the Big 12, a festive day with a rollicking sellout crowd that sat in a blue and gold color scheme 60,012 strong.

How best to put it?

Seventy points almost weren’t enough.

A spectacular one-hand catch by J.D. Woods of one of the few bad passes thrown by Geno Smith in the fourth quarter to salvage a first down saved the day. If not, who knows how many points might have been scored by Baylor?

And you knew if they would score again, so would West Virginia, for that’s the way it was in this game.

“To say that the defenses didn’t play very well is an understatement,” understated WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen.

The 133 points scored was a school record for a game WVU played in. The ball was snapped 180 times and the two teams combined for 1,507 yards — 15 times up and down the football field from goal line to goal line.

Geno Smith passed for 656 yards with 45 completions, eight of them for touchdowns … and it didn’t salt away the game.

Not with Baylor quarterback Nick Florence completing 29 of 47 passes for 581 yards and five touchdowns himself.

You don’t see numbers like that in Madden football.

How absurd was it? Stedman Bailey caught 13 passes for 303 yards and those weren’t the best receiving numbers in the game, Baylor’s Terrance Williams catching 17 passes for 314 yards … and there is no typo there.

WVU corner Pat Miller was scorched so often that they almost had to take him to the local burn unit.

And Baylor was no better, for five of Bailey’s 13 catches were for touchdowns — five, a school record. What’s more, Tavon Austin caught 14 for 215 yards and two TDs and Woods had another 13 for 114 yards.

Welcome to the Big 12.

It was not a happy Joe DeForest who kindly met with the media in the aftermath of the game, following a strip search to remove all sharp objects from his possession.

He is the defensive coordinator of the Mountaineers.

“Give a lot of credit to Baylor. They made plays. We didn’t. We were in position to make plays and we didn’t make them,” he said.

What else could he say?

“We have to go back and look at the film. We have to make some personnel changes. We have to make better calls. We have to do a better job attacking the ball in the air,” he continued. “The bottom line is they executed better than we did.”

Some of his players tried to defend him.

Safety Darwin Cook, who made a couple more big plays, maybe the only big plays the defense made, put the blame elsewhere.            

“We wasn’t clicking,” he said. “We wasn’t tackling. Coach put us in position to make plays. It wasn’t his fault. It was our fault.”

DeForest wouldn’t let the blame go to the players, however.

“I did a poor job of preparing them. I did a poor job of calling the game,” he said.

     It was painful watching him out there, facing the music to a song that was terribly off-key, especially when across the room there was an offense coordinator wearing a smile after his team scored 70 points.

It was a poignant moment, seeing the contrast.

“You have to think about the way games go,” Dawson said when the contrast was brought up to him. “You are dealing with 18 and 22-year old kids. A lot of Baylor’s defense is attacking the perimeter. When that happens, if you make one single mistake you will give up a big play.

“It’s like playing against us offensively,” he continued. “In my opinion it’s a learning deal. We’re learning together. There comes a time when we will need them to pick us up. I promise you there will be no finger pointing, not from the players or the coaches. Bottom line, we won the game. That’s it, close the book and look forward to Texas.”

DeForest, too, in the end would not that there was one saving grace to it all.

    “A win is a win. We won the game. Do you know how hard … they had won nine straight games. Am I happy about it, absolutely not, but they are the No. 1 offense in the country. We’re 4-0, they’re not.

It’s hard to take as a defensive coach, but maybe this will make us better,” he said.

Yeah, and maybe the moon really is made of cheese.

Email Bob Hertzel at or follow on Twitter@bhertzel.