MORGANTOWN - The numbers were simply staggering.Seventy-three points.Nearly 900 yards of total offense.Nine touchdowns on the first 10 possessions.
And while the buzz across the nation surrounds the Baylor team that rang up those gaudy statistics - in Vegas the Bears went from 25-to-1 to win the national championship to 10-to-1, behind only Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State - in West Virginia it is hard to forget that it takes two to tango.Someone had to give up those numbers."We reverted back to a lot of the stuff that happened last year,'' Dana Holgorsen said of WVU's defense, which a season ago might have surrendered those without a second thought.This wasn't supposed to be last year's defense, however. In fact, through the first five games of the season it looked like anything but that. It ranked 36th nationally in scoring defense and 37th in total defense. It held Oklahoma to 16 points and was giving up less than 20 points and 350 yards per game.And then that."When we got down 21-7 and we knew the environment we were in, our guys hit the panic button, defensively specifically,'' Holgorsen said. "They lost some of the discipline that we've been teaching for eight months, which was discouraging to see.''
Again, part of the issue was simply Baylor, which has put up the same kind of numbers against everyone it has played and will likely put them up against a few more teams. It's a terrific offense, one that is just as good running the football as throwing it. Defenses tend to want to take away one or the other and make the opposition one-dimensional, but no one has been able to do that to Baylor.The problem was compounded for West Virginia because it is committed to stopping the pass after failing to do so at all a year ago."We need to keep the safeties deep and protect the corners. When Baylor established the run that they did, it went downhill,'' Holgorsen said, meaning that he had to bring his safeties closer to help against the run, which left his cornerbacks on islands against some exceptional receivers. "Why did it happen? I could give you a thousand excuses, but they whipped our tail."You've got to start preparing, you have to change, you have to start pressuring and doing a variety of things. That puts corners out in the open field. They had two guys in the open field that could just flat-out go. Some of those throws and catches were really good. It steamrolled from there.''Baylor's evisceration of West Virginia's defense, however, doesn't mean Holgorsen has lost faith in that group.
"I feel good about where we're at defensively,'' Holgorsen said.And perhaps that's not as ludicrous as it sounds. West Virginia plays Texas Tech next Saturday and the Red Raiders are more than potent on offense. But after that, the four highest-ranked offenses in the Big 12 will be in the rear-view mirror. And against the other two, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the difference between this year and last was striking."Keith's doing a great job,'' Holgorsen said of defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. "We didn't play very good last week, but I love the scheme that we're doing. Baylor had a lot to do with it."They've got tremendous, tremendous speed. Better than I thought. And I knew they had good speed.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1