West Virginia Game 1: Does the Mountaineer Defense Really Stink?

Shawn Withrow@withrowspCorrespondent ISeptember 3, 2012

The WVU Defense lined up against Marshall on Saturday.
The WVU Defense lined up against Marshall on Saturday.

The WVU defense gave up 545 yards of total offense and 34 points in Saturday's opening game against the Thundering Herd of Marshall University, but is it really that bad?

The short answer is probably not.

There is little doubt that WVU has work to do on the defensive side of the ball before the team enters Big 12 league play, but it was better than a quick glance at the stat sheet might suggest.

Lets take a look at four key points:

1. WVU was in a "vanilla" defensive scheme without any complex pressure or coverage packages. It probably didn't want to let everything out of the bag yet if it didn't need to do so.

2. At the end of the third quarter, the score was 55-20 in favor of WVU, and one of Marshall's scores was the fault of special teams due to a blocked punt. Which means the Mountaineers' first-team defense had only yielded 13 points through three quarters to a highly motivated Thundering Herd team.

3. Lest we forget, Marshall is an FBS-level team that won a bowl game last season and returned most of its offense, including a second-year starter at quarterback in Rakeem Cato and a legitimate NFL prospect at wide receiver in Aaron Dobson. Cato was mobile, focused and sharp with his passes for most of the game and led his unit with precision.

4. Marshall scored two touchdowns late in the game during what was essentially garbage time. At that point, the contest was over and WVU had inserted backups and started to play a prevent-style defense. Take those two scores out of consideration, and the final score would have been 69-20 in favor of WVU.

Still, the reality is that the young players up front and in the secondary have to improve before WVU enters into the pass-happy, high-flying Big 12 league grind. Then again, with an offense that can score 69 points in one game, perhaps they don't?

Please tell me what you think in the comments below.