MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- So many things went wrong with West Virginia's defense last season that it's hard, really, to point fingers in any particular direction.
You only have 10 of them, after all.
And that's not enough.
Oh, sure, you can single out your favorites. Start with coaching, move on to schemes, take a shot at philosophy and then throw in the quality of the opponents. Add health to the mix and you're halfway there.
But it's hard not to look at individual performances, too. Yes, that was a defense that had to replace the likes of Bruce Irvin and Najee Goode and Keith Tandy. But it was also one with seven starters returning. And few of them lived up to expectations.
At the top of the list? Darwin Cook.
That's not a critical assessment by an unattached observer. It's his own.
"I sucked,'' the West Virginia safety said. "There's no other way to put it. I just sucked.''
Well, actually there are other ways to put it. And Cook did.
"Maybe I was just thinking I was hot [stuff],'' Cook said. "Not really hot [stuff], because that's not my attitude. I mean, I didn't show it because I'm a very humble person. But deep inside maybe I just felt like I was satisfied and I felt like I made it.''
Perhaps it began with what is Cook's defining moment to date as a Mountaineer. In roughly 15 seconds on national television in the Orange Bowl 15 months ago, Cook became a star. On one end of the field he reached into a pile and picked up a fumble. Roughly 100 yards later he was crossing the goal line and igniting what would become a 70-33 rout of Clemson. Another 10 yards or so beyond that, he was bowling over the Orange Bowl mascot.
Those 15 seconds made Cook a star. He was a go-to guy in the postgame interviews. He had secured a place in Mountaineer lore.
And maybe, just maybe, that was enough for him.
"I don't feel like it got to me to the point where I was outwardly [cocky]. I was always the same,'' Cook said. "But I think inside I was just satisfied with myself. I made some play, I did this or I did that. Let's just say I could have attacked last year much harder than I did.''