WVU returns to practice this afternoon and a healthy portion will be devoted to a “turnover circuit” that, one would think, must be terribly boring and unnerving for the players and coaches. It’s something you do from the very beginning of spring practice on and you’d hope you can trend away from it.
Yet there they are, in November, back where they started and for a reason.
Possession is a lost art at WVU. The blame is hurriedly applied to the offense and the players who, for some reason, forget that brown thing they’re holding is really important and the other team really wants it.
Yet the defense — yes, the one that’s so highly ranked in so many categories and has done so much to help WVU win — isn’t free of guilt. Those Mountaineers haven’t caused a turnover the past two games (one against Syracuse was on special teams) and will admit they need to do a better job helping the offense.
“We’ve got to get in a situation where we make a play and turn the tide,” Casteel said. “I think that our kids defensively need to do what we need to do to help ourselves.
“We don’t turn (UConn) over and we needed a turnover. We needed a play to help turn the tide in the game. We didn’t do it, and we really do focus on those things.”
It’s probably a petty complaint, but think of it also as a defense that’s so confident in its ability that it’s focused on something so specific.
Candidate Dunlap suggests a defense getting turnovers is like a pitcher getting a hit. You take it, but you don’t expect it. By that logic, I suppose criticizing the WVU defense for this one flaw is like devaluing a no-hitter because the pitcher didn’t strike out enough batters.
Irregardless, WVU has created 12 turnovers, which isn’t very good. Eight are interceptions. The opponents have fumbled 13 times and only lost four — and four of those fumbles and two of those recoveries have happened on special teams.
That’s just 12 extra possessions for the offense … and that offense needs the possessions. It’s given away 17 possessions this season and, more often than not, hasn’t been able to generate lengthy scoring drives. This is where the defense can help the offense.
Of 32 scoring drives, only seven have lasted more than 10 plays. Three of those have ended with a field goal.
Just eight of the 32 drives have traveled 70 yards or more – and two were against Coastal Carolina and two were the late 96- and 98-yard drives against Marshall.
One against UNLV and South Florida ended with 38- and 31-yard touchdown passes to Brad Starks, which are the second- and third-longest pass plays of the season.
The offense has scored on six of 12 possessions created by a turnover … and, again, two possessions were special teams recoveries against Coastal and Syracuse. Apart from a nine-play, 96-yard drive against Marshall, the offense hasn’t had to move more than six plays or 34 yards to get a score after taking over after a turnover.