By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
There is no truth to the rumors running rampant in Morgantown that the street fires that blazed out of control on Saturday night following the 70-63 victory over Baylor were actually nothing more than the coaching staff burning the defensive films.
True, the defense had been scorched for nine touchdowns and was burned so often by quarterback Nick Florence and wide receiver Terrance Williams that Smokey the Bear even cancelled his season tickets.
But that was last week and if it served no other purpose than keeping overconfidence from setting in with the defenders, then maybe it was worth it.
Surely, as promised, there would be some changes in the personnel, if not in the new defensive philosophy that was brought in because it seemingly was a better fit against the wide open passing games that dominate the Big 12.
However, when the depth chart came out on Tuesday it included the usual suspects … and that was somewhat unsettling.
“We always look to make changes if we need to,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said in his weekly press gathering, offering something of an excuse for keeping the status quo at least until someone steps forward off the bench
“College football is what it is. We can’t call somebody and ask for a trade or try to pick someone up off of waivers,” he said. “Those are guys that have played around here for a long time. We have to get them better.”
Such a sentiment was echoed later Tuesday evening by defensive coordinator Joe DeForest, when the assistant coaches and players emerged from the day’s practice to enlighten the media.
It was DeForest, you may recall, who was the hottest in the aftermath of the Baylor game, dejected and disappointed.
"What do you do?" DeForest said. "You tell me. If you've got an answer, tell me."
He would later add this:
“We’ll look at making personnel changes and making better calls, but we’ve got to do a better job of, when the ball is in the air, attacking the ball. They ran the same plays we practiced. They never really tempoed us. We were always in position to make plays. They just executed better than we did. That's what we’ve got to change if we want to compete in this league.”
He has met with his team, gone over the past and begun preparing for the future.
“They saw the mistakes on film. Now we have a chance to correct them,” he said.
“It is what it is. You can only play a certain amount of guys you can play,” he said, a quote that sounded spookily the same as Holgorsen’s.
Now he’s had Sunday to watch film and practice, Monday to meet and watch film, and Tuesday to watch film and practice.
The time has come now to build something, to find answers for from here on out the defense will be facing a group of arsonists week after week, beginning at Texas, and there can’t be a whole lot of confidence on the defense.
“There are different ways of developing confidence — one is being successful,” Holgorsen said when asked about it. “There are guys back in the secondary that have been successful in the past, but others are true freshmen.
“The other way is to man up a little bit and work hard. One of the things that we have told every one of our players is that no one is going to give you anything. You have to earn everything, so if you don’t like the result, you have to work hard in order to change it.”
It is called being a man.
“That isn’t just a reality in football, that is a reality in life the last time I checked,” Holgorsen said.
Heads were hanging on Saturday. And why not?
“That’s human nature,” DeForest said. “Any time you fail in anything or don’t do as well as you wanted to in anything, you get down on yourself. We can’t let outside distractions or outside comments detract from what we’re trying to do as a defense, which is to get better every day.”
And so it has begun, this effort to rebuild the defense and the confidence with which it will play.
The coaches will lead but they are looking for help from within with the leadership of what is, essentially, a young group of players.
“We have some guys who are trying to lead and say ‘Hey, we need to forget about the last game. We have a new challenge. Just follow me.’ Some of the D-linemen are doing a good job of that. We need more than one leader. We need as many as we can get to pull the team together,” DeForest said.
It’s a difficult assignment as DeForest readily pointed out.
“They have great receivers, a huge offensive line, they have two great running backs. You name it, they have it. They’re Texas … and everything’s bigger in Texas, right?” he said.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.