West Virginia coaches search for defensive remedy

Young unit torched in past two games

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Can it get much worse?

West Virginia's defense woke up Sunday morning ranked as the worst pass defense in NCAA Division I-A, dead last at 120.

That was clear as day using just the naked eye during Saturday's game.

West Virginia gave up 333 passing yards to Kansas State along with seven consecutive touchdowns in what could rank among the program's worst defensive performances on record.

The team did manage to stay ranked, at No. 25 in the Associated Press Top-25, down from No. 5 two weeks ago.

The coaching staff, looking worn out, struggled to explain the performance.

"We're just trying to find a guy to make a play," said co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest. "We had six true freshmen play on defense. Not an excuse, by any stretch. It is what it is. We've got to find a way to make it work. I'm not going to blame the kids. It's our job as coaches to find a way to get them to understand."

Certainly youth appears to be one issue.

The staff -- from Dana Holgorsen to DeForest -- mentioned multiple times how many youngsters were in the lineup.

Six freshmen did make it onto the field, 10 counting redshirt freshmen.

Freshman Nana Kyeremeh started at cornerback in place of Brodrick Jenkins (knee); redshirt freshman Kyle Rose was used at defensive end in place of Will Clarke.

By game's end, Holgorsen said, 30 players were used on the defensive side of the ball.

DeForest was asked again about the scheme -- a base 3-4 -- and if coaches are considering changing things because of the unit's ineffectiveness.

"We've tried everything. Maybe that's our fault as a staff," said DeForest. "We've tried to cover up our deficiencies. Then we tried to do other things to give them the ability to mix it up. We're searching right now. We're searching, but every week is different. One week it's Kansas State, next week it's Texas Tech. You're running across different problems every week."

In the past two games the team has given up 104 points, 846 passing yards and appeared incapable of making adjustments, consistently getting beat on double moves by receivers even when the same play was run back-to-back.

Keith Patterson, the team's other co-defensive coordinator, had similar things to say.

"We're just trying to get somebody out there who can make a play, challenge receivers," said Patterson. "Again, it's something you've got to evaluate and see where we are and then make decisions."

The offense also is searching for answers, after being held to 21 points in the past two games combined. The unit put up 246 in the first five games.


Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1959.


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