"It's one of the issues when you play with younger kids and they don't understand how important your preparation is and how you go about things day to day impacts how you play on Saturday because you're getting everyone's best punch," defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said.
"I think that's one of the things as a young team that you learn to do. A lot of these kids were only doing it running down on kickoffs last year or on the punt team. Now you have to do it every down and in some tough situations. You get tired and beat up eight and nine weeks into the season and you're still getting everyone's best punch."
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IN LOSING two of the past three games, WVU has seen its defensive rankings slip. Before the loss at Syracuse, the Mountaineers were No. 16 in total defense, No. 36 in scoring defense, No. 36 in rush defense, No. 17 in pass defense and No. 18 in pass efficiency defense.
The Mountaineers are now No. 23 in total defense, No. 67 in scoring defense, No. 41 in rush defense, No. 35 in pass defense and No. 28 in pass efficiency defense.
The defense has been put in tough spots because of turnovers and bad special teams play, but Holgorsen wasn't willing to acquit anyone.
"I don't care what the situation is, your job is to go out there and stop people," he said. "Let's take for instance the two turnovers (against Louisville). One was on their side of the field and we did a great job. They threw up a wall and forced a field goal. That is winning football on defense.
"Now,the two times we shanked punts, they still had to go 55 and 66 yards. That's not a tremendously short field. That's normal, to the point you've got to play defense there. Keep looking for excuses and you don't get any better. There are plenty of ways to spin everything in football, but I don't buy into that."
Neither does Casteel, who had to find seven new starters and then a second wave of players to fill the roles and the holes created when he promoted players to starting spots.
He's dealt with growing pains, but also actual pains. Injuries on the defensive line and at linebacker have either slower or sidelined players and conspired to keep the defense from building much continuity.
"We knew we'd have our work cut out for us, but we've been a little banged up and haven't really gotten into sync throughout the whole year," Casteel said. "We've played well in spurts, but we've turned around and not played real well.
"t's been frustrating obviously, frustrating for the kids and the coaches, but we've got to keep banging at it and eventually we'll push through it."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.