MORGANTOWN - Jeff Casteel seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time during the preseason and the first few games of West Virginia's football season attempting to lower expectations for his defense.
Granted, there was a really good reason. Everyone seemed to want to talk about how great the group was, how it might be the school's best in years, if not ever.
If you're a defensive coordinator trying to keep your guys humble and hungry, as Casteel is, who needs all that lavish praise? Shoot, accentuate the negative, not the positive, at least until these guys prove themselves.
Well, four games into the season, they have.
True, none of the offenses the Mountaineers have faced to date are going to win many awards. That includes the offense of what is now the No. 12 team in the country, LSU. The Tigers are winning in spite of their offense, not because of it. Coastal Carolina is 67th in the FCS in total offense. Among the big boys, Maryland, Marshall and LSU are 87th, 83rd and 102nd, respectively.
And, of course, there will remain the pesky issue of covering the deep ball. You know the facts. Marshall completed a 96-yard touchdown pass. Maryland struck for 60- and 80-yarders. Even LSU had a shot and managed to draw a pass interference flag against Brandon Hogan on what otherwise might have been a 62-yard score.
Still, consider that against Maryland the Mountaineers were on defense for 51 plays. On the 49 that didn't go for long touchdowns they gave up 77 total yards.
Marshall ran 56 plays against West Virginia and on 53 of those gave up just 184 yards.
As for LSU, the Tigers ran 59 plays and gained just 230 yards.
In other words, subtract five plays from the season and West Virginia's defense has given up 491 yards on 161 plays against FBS opponents, an average of three yards every time the ball is snapped.