Coach's criticism toughens WVU defense
College Football Videos
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Whether it's fair or unfair, the West Virginia defense has taken a lot of criticism this season.
While coach Dana Holgorsen's offense has put up unprecedented numbers for West Virginia, the defense has bared the brunt of the disapproval in Morgantown.
But the biggest criticism hasn't come from the fans, but from defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel.
"I think we take the most criticism from our coaches, especially Coach Casteel, than we take from anyone else," sophomore Doug Rigg said. "I can take anything from anyone else after taking criticism from him."
Despite being the whipping boy for the West Virginia football team, Casteel's intensity and demand for excellence has given the defense a thicker skin.
Casteel, known for his fiery nature, doesn't sugarcoat things for the players. He tells them like it is, and it's that mentality that's driven this defense to work hard and continue to improve even with the outside criticism.
"Being around Coach Casteel, you have to be very mentally tough," Rigg said. "He can break your spirits in a second with the things he says to you."
That mental toughness allowed the defense to persevere especially last week against Cincinnati.
The defense squandered a 17-7 lead, allowing back-to-back, 50-plus-yard touchdown drives, but it didn't lose focus. After West Virginia regained a 24-21 lead, the Mountaineers defense forced three-and-outs on consecutive drives that netted a combined minus-21 yards.
Even on Cincinnati's final drive after the Bearcats marched into West Virginia territory, the defense held on a crucial third-and-4 at their own 15 to force the game-winning field goal, which was blocked.
West Virginia allowed Cincinnati to gain 404 yards, but 174 yards came on offensive plays where the defense didn't make the play. But every time the Bearcats hit a big play, the defense shored up and made a stop.
West Virginia held the Big East's top scoring offense, which entered the game averaging 39.1 points per game, to 21 points.
"With that mental toughness you get from hearing him criticize you, in a game when you're down, it's nothing," Rigg said. "It's like we can come back from this, especially when he gives you encouragement on the sidelines."
After giving up an average of 393.3 yards and 39.3 points in the past three games, the defense knew it need to improve, step up and help the team win.
The Cincinnati win keeps West Virginia alive in the race for a Big East title and the conference's BCS berth, but it was also big for the defense.
"We knew it was a must-win game, with our backs against the wall," Rigg said. "Coach Holgorsen told us, 'What are you going to do with your back against the wall• It's easy when you're on top, but what are you going to do with your back against the wall?' "
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Dubinsky suspended for cross-check on SidneyCrosby
- Clairton captures 12th WPIAL football championship
- Woman dies after bleeding on sidewalk outside Carrick pizzeria
- Man reports being hit by bullet in Highland Park
- Penguins lose hard-fought game to Blue Jackets in overtime
- Former Pirates pitcher Happ agrees to $36 million, 3-year deal with Blue Jays
- Unabashed church pastors put politics front and center
- Unsung backups provide boost for Steelers defensive line
- CBS’ ‘Code Black’ inspired by Pitt medical school graduate’s documentary
- Republicans roll dice as Trump headlines Pennsylvania Society event
- Clairton among greatest WPIAL dynasties; Aliquippa, South Fayette close