The most interesting part about this defense, however, is that even if it's just for a half or three quarters or whatever length of time, more often than not it is doing it with a ton of backups on the field. The Mountaineers lost two more regulars in the rotation last week when linebacker Jared Barber and linebacker/safety K.J. Dillon went down for the rest of the season. That's eight players lost for the season and there have been at least eight more who have missed time or games because of injuries.
And this was a team that didn't seem all that deep to begin with.
"I think I counted 15 guys on defense who are on the injury report and 10 of those guys are out for the season,'' Paterson said. "But you can't use that as an excuse. That's just football. It's a tough sport and it's part of the game.
"Look at our offense, for example. [Receiver] Mario Alford was banged up early in the year, now he steps right in. It's no different on defense. People just have to step in. I always tell the backups: 'you're one play away from being a starter.' You have to prepare. It may be game 11 before you get that shot to play. They have to get out there and execute. You can't use that as an excuse. No one cares.''
The good news for the defense is that the offensive powerhouses on the schedule are all in the rear-view mirror. Kansas, today's opponent, is 117th in the country in total offense and 116th in scoring. The Jayhawks aren't even very good at any phase of offense, ranking 113th in passing and 91st in rushing.
Iowa State, the foe in two weeks, is roughly the same.
The hope is that some of those backups will continue to step in, the third-down defense will improve against teams that aren't very good on any down and the Mountaineers will actually show some defensive improvement that lasts.
"It goes to the preparation way back in the season, when we made sure our second and third strings we're paying attention and taking quality reps,'' Patterson said. "When situations like this happen, they can fill in and there won't be a drop-off.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.