WVU Defense Searching for Answers - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Defense Searching for Answers


Joe DeForest opened with a statement that, had any offensive coach said it, may have been meant in a positive way.

"Welcome to the Big 12," West Virginia's defensive coordinator said.

Without a hint of a smile, completely lacking of the levity that many of the offense brought to the interview room, DeForest tried to explain how his troops allowed Baylor to post 63 points on the scoreboard.

He did his best to review a performance that kept the conference opener in question until the final minutes despite the home team putting up 70. Without having reviewed the tape, DeForest simply went on what he saw from his field level view.

"Did you watch the game, where we were in relation to where the ball was? Guys got to make plays," DeForest said. "But I did a poor job of preparing them, I did a poor job of calling the game, ultimately it falls on me."

Although he tried turning the blame to coaching, DeForest frequently referenced execution as the reason for failure. Baylor did, WVU didn't. At times, it truly was that simple.

There were many instances in which an athlete in a Bears uniform outplayed an athlete in a Mountaineers uniform. They were both there, in position to make a play for their respective team, and the player in white won.

"Coaches put us in position to make plays, we've just got to make plays as players. So it's not on the coaches at all, it's on us," junior safety Darwin Cook said after the game. "Secondary, defensive line, linebackers, it's on the players. It's on the players."

This is a defense that, coming into the game, knew it would face real challenges unlike what the first three games presented. With the Big 12's track record, and Baylor's specifically, DeForest told his guys that they would need a short memory to get over any deficiencies and remain focused on the next play, not the last.

Points of emphasis, as they've been all season, were turnovers and third down stops. With only one turnover – on the first drive of the game – and just five stops on 17 third- and fourth-down chances, they failed at those goals.

"It's very frustrating. I think you could see from the crowd getting frustrated too," junior linebacker Doug Rigg said of giving up the third down conversions. "It's third-and-10, that has to be a guarantee or at least a 90 percent chance of getting off the field. They were getting too many first downs. We weren't getting enough pressure on them."

While they could easily look at the team's record and move on, happy with the result, you will not hear too many pleasant responses regarding their showing. Darwin Cook, for one, has a hard time acknowledging that his team is still undefeated.

"I walked off the field," Cook said, referencing the celebration that many WVU players and their fans enjoyed on the field. "I wasn't happy at all. I feel like we lost. I just feel like we lost. That was a very bad game for the defense."

Cook, Rigg and a few other defenders were part of the group that just two years ago was carrying players like Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to wins. They remember what it was like to wait patiently for the other side of the ball to pick up the slack.

Now it is the offense waiting on the defense, and they're taking it on themselves to keep their teammates in the game with their heads up.

"It's very important," Bailey said of keeping the defense's confidence up. "Those guys were kind of down. They gave up quite a few points. But me, Geno, Tavon, as vocal leaders, we told those guys don't worry about it, we'll go out there and we'll just score again."

During the game, a few former Mountaineer defenders took to Twitter to express their dismay at their old unit's inability to slow the Bears. Cook and Rigg couldn't have known at the time what their past leaders were saying, but that didn't stop them from thinking about it on the field.

"I bet they were watching on TV wanting to choke us, wanting to kill me, because I'm a product of what they gave," said Cook. "They gave good leadership, I try to give good leadership out there. I've just got to do a better job of that, I guess."

"I don't even want to talk to the old guys I played with two years ago because they would get on us about how unacceptable that was," Rigg added. "I did play on a defense that was No. 2 or No. 3 in the nation for total defense and we saw how they worked and how they got after people and no matter how talented the people were, they still got after them. We've got to do the same."

DeForest will look at the tape and make adjustments. He said Saturday that the scheme and the personnel will be changed in whatever way the staff believes gives the team the best chance to win. He hesitated to do so in the course of the game for fear of destroying a players' confidence with more snaps ahead.

But while it would be easy to point fingers at the secondary or any other individual, the defense is pointing at the collective unit.

"It's my fault, it's the defensive line's fault, linebackers' fault, it's everybody's fault," said Cook. "You don't give up 63 points off a couple of players. That's a whole defensive unit."

The Mountaineers have just a few days to regroup and make corrections before they get yet another test from another ranked opponent, the second of many remaining in a Big 12 slate.  

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