What Can We Learn From The Mountaineers Today? (October 13, 2012)

Be careful whenever anyone says that Team XYZ is great because they cannot be stopped.  That has a way of coming back to bite you.

A coach of mine in high school told me something that took me years to understand, but it usually holds true.  He told me that there is never any reason not to play sound defense.  From game to game, you should at least be able to slow down your opponent.  There are going to be some days when the offense just isn’t there.  Timing could be off, holes can just not be there or disappear quickly, weather can dictate what plays an offense can run or tactics they can use, or a thousand other factors that can be a detriment to moving the ball down the field.

Defense on the other hand, is simpler to implement and apply.  Notice I said simpler, not easier.  There is a difference.  Less variables have to go your way to play solid defense.  Defense is about disruption, and making the offense make bad or just undesirable choices.  Every defensive coach on earth will tell you that the keys to defense are to attack the weaknesses of an offense, and make the offense chose the least attractive option.

Think of it this way:  Which option is more likely?

  1. Taking months or years to sculpt a beautiful, priceless work of art, and have it displayed in a gallery for all to see until it sells to some collector for enough money to buy your own island; or
  2. Knocking any choice appendage (your choice; be creative) off that statue, rendering it not worth resurfacing your driveway with.

Even if I’m Picasso, I’ll take Option 2 every time.  It’s much easier to screw up a masterpiece than it is to create one.

I bring this up because, up until this afternoon, West Virginia was able to win despite giving up (not including today’s game) 35 points per game.  They were able to do this because they were scoring (not including today’s game) 52 points per game.

Those numbers are just not sustainable.

Scoring a lot of points masks a lot of weaknesses.  It’s a false sense of security.  It’s like when the stock market as a whole is doing well, and Joe Six-pack fancies himself a brilliant manipulator of the market.  In this case, WVU was scoring points and racking up record passing numbers against Marshall (124th ranked defense in the country), James Madison (FCS), Maryland (gave up 27 points to Temple, and scored 7 against William and Mary), Baylor (120th ranked defense), and Texas (ranked #15 until the polls come out this week, but have given up 111 points in their last two games).

The chances that they could keep up the scoring pace to make up for their miserable defense for fourteen games (twelve regular season games, conference championship game, bowl game) were dismal (read: no chance in Hell).   Oh, and it’s not going to get any easier.  West Virginia plays #6 Kansas State (20th ranked defense) next week, and #13 Oklahoma (21st ranked defense) on November 17th.  Good luck.

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I do appreciate other viewpoints, so please comment

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