Koenning Looking For More Buy-In From WVU Defense
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia defensive coordinator Vic Koenning is usually philosophical and even-keeled when discussing most aspects of the game, but the difficulty and frustration of one shortcoming had him a bit exercised in the wake of the Mountaineers’ 42-31 loss to Texas.
Faced with the twin frustrations of a depleted roster and an apparent lack of full buy-in from at least a few players, Koenning was straight-forward when discussing West Virginia’s defensive performance, which was very good until the fourth quarter.
“I heard one NFL coach say, ‘We’re going to tolerate you until we can replace you,'” Koenning related. “So until we can recruit some guys and have depth and roll guys in – that’s obviously not now – but that’s the process.
“I just think some guys aren’t putting football in the top four things in their life, so until we start doing…” he trailed off, his meaning obvious as he launched on a different tack. “We don’t ask [for football] to be ahead of their faith or their family or school, but if they’ll put it fourth, at least during the season … Coach Brown is as good as I’ve been around as far as getting guys to do the right thing, pushing them, pulling them and trying to motivate them to do the right thing and get support to them. He works tirelessly at that.”
This shouldn’t be taken as an indictment of a large number of players. It’s just that with such a small roster to work with, every shortcoming is magnified. Many WVU players are able to overcome those with good effort, but Koenning’s words seem to indicate there are a few that need to get on board. Unfortunately, sitting those players down totally isn’t an option either, due to the need for breaks, injury replacements and the like.
“We don’t have any depth. We don’t have any depth,” Koenning reiterated forcefully when asked of possible short-term solutions. “At some positions we don’t have two deep. We have some guys that are giving everything they’ve got, so credit to them.”
This also shouldn’t be taken as an indicator of any overall team issues. West Virginia put forth a great effort against Texas, and in the postgame players were realistic about their performance, but showed no evidence of being down or not caring about the result.
“We were playing really good defense; we were playing as good defense as we have played all year,” Koenning said of his unit’s performance through three quarters, outside of one drive in the second.
In the fourth, Texas ran the ball 16 times for 90 yards, and appeared to be taking advantage of a tiring West Virginia defense. Koenning, though, noted that it was “a nice cool day” before offering the buy-in assessment and noting that backups weren’t as good as they needed to be.
“I think when we started putting some backup guys in, things didn’t go as well,” he said.