On Saturday the West Virginia defense was shredded for 63 points by Baylor. On Monday, it was belittled by the NCAA statistical rankings.
Among the 120 FBS schools in the weekly audit, the unbeaten Mountaineers stand 106th in total defense, 118th in pass defense, 109th in passing efficiency defense and 94th in points allowed.
"Our pass defense was atrocious," said West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen, rarely one to sugarcoat situations even in the best of times, and certainly not after watching — and rewatching —Baylor’s Nick Florence throw for 581 yards and five scores.
Of course, Florence’s spectacular numbers became a mere footnote after Geno Smith’s 656 yards and eight touchdowns carried WVU to a 70-63 victory. Yet it’s unlikely No. 8 West Virginia (4-0) can continue surviving such extreme scoring matches, so Holgorsen suggested personnel changes are afoot as the Mountaineers prepare for this Saturday’s trip to No. 11 Texas.
"We either get new guys in the secondary that make plays or we’ve got to get those guys more confident," Holgorsen said during Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. "What happened was very evident: We got (Baylor) in third-down plays and we just didn’t make plays in secondary."
Baylor converted 11-of-16 third downs and was 1-of-1 on fourth down. Yet as critical as Holgorsen sounded, his perception of the defense’s performance actually improved after scrutinizing the film.
"I felt a lot better about it Sunday than I did Saturday night — just to know that we played pretty good defense probably 75 percent of the time," he said. "But when you just let receivers get open and make plays and bust the coverage … and they get chunks of yardage, it’s obviously disheartening."
Holgorsen also was encouraged by how his front seven defended the run, limiting Baylor to 119 yards on 45 carries for a 2.6-yard average. "To try to find a positive, our run defense was pretty good," he said. "We were physical upfront."
TEXAS SLOWS TEMPO
Though points could be plentiful in Austin, Holgorsen doesn’t foresee a repeat of last week’s Baylor-WVU "perfect storm" in which both offenses lived in the fifth gear from start to finish. For one thing, Texas actually uses an offensive huddle and, on occasion, allows the playclock to reach single digits.
"They’re going to play conventional football, which is going to keep us off the field," Holgorsen said. "This won’t be a game like last week where both offenses take 90-some snaps. Their philosophy differs (from Baylor), which is going to slow us down on offense."
At 100,119 capacity, Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium is the sixth-largest venue in the NCAA and easily the largest in the Big 12. Holgorsen, having visited as an opposing coach a handful of times, calls it "one of the best environments that exists in college football."
But he doesn’t expect the atmosphere to overwhelm West Virginia’s players, who have played in BCS bowls and encountered rowdy stadiums at LSU and Auburn.
"I can assure you they won’t be intimidated," the coach said. "They’ve been at some big places and our guys are excited about being a part of that."