WVU defense adjusting to Big 12's fast tempo
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — After Baylor's explosive offense gave his defense a reality check, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen delivered a similar message to reporters Tuesday.
“I've been telling you how it is,” Holgorsen said after the Mountaineers survived, 70-63, behind Geno Smith's eight touchdown passes despite yielding nine touchdowns and 700 total yards. “It's going to be fast-paced. It's the culture of the Big 12.
“Especially compared to last week, when (Maryland) would get over the ball and sit there and stare at the sideline for 30 seconds (before snapping the ball). It's not going to be like that. It's a very uptempo league. We've got to get better defensively at playing at a very high tempo level.”
Defensive coordinator Joe DeForest called the Baylor game a defining teaching moment for his unit.
Like Holgorsen, DeForest — who spent 11 years at Oklahoma State — warned his players about preparing for Big 12 offenses. He explained the no-huddle attacks and multiple-receiver formations would be like nothing they had ever seen.
Even having to face their own dangerous offense every day in practice wouldn't prepare them for what to expect in their league opener, DeForest cautioned.
One of DeForest's players, safety Darwin Cook, went so far as to tell reporters after the game that WVU's defenders — despite their coaches' repeated warnings — didn't expect a shootout against Baylor.
“I don't think they understand the big picture of what's happening in this league,” DeForest said. “You can talk about it all day, but they don't get it until you go against it.”
“(DeForest) felt worse than anybody,” Holgorsen said. “He didn't have a very good day. I didn't have a very good day either.”
DeForest believes his players will pay much closer attention during this week's preparations for Texas, which ranks No. 4 nationally in passing efficiency and third-down conversions, No. 5 in time of possession and No. 9 in scoring offense.
“I thought coming out in the second half, they sat on the bench like, ‘Now we get what you were telling us,' ” DeForest said.
“Look at the (top) offenses in the country. It's Baylor. It's West Virginia. It's Oklahoma State. What do they do? The exact same thing. You've got to measure success differently in this league. It's not how many yards you give up, it's not how many points. Ultimately, you have to make one more stop than they do, make one more turnover, and you win the game.”
Oklahoma State, Baylor and West Virginia are ranked 1-2-3 in total offense and scoring offense in the nation. Texas is ranked No. 40 in passing offense.
“I felt a lot better about it Sunday than I did Saturday night,” Holgorsen said. “We played pretty good defense probably 75 percent of the time. We've got to keep improving up front and either get new guys in the secondary that make plays or we've got to get those guys more confident to be able to make the plays.”
Note: Holgorsen said West Virginia's repeated use of five-receiver sets against Baylor was a result of injuries to running back Shawne Alston and running back Dustin Garrison's gradual return from knee surgery, Andrew Buie received the majority of carries. “We just didn't have any running backs,” Holgorsen said. “They were pretty beat up. If we don't have any running backs, we will make it work with receivers.”
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.