It's hard to argue, though, that many of the places on the field West Virginia has been asked to play defense this season have been tough spots. Opponents have mustered 38 drives this season (not counting special-teams scores) that resulted in either touchdowns or field goals. Of those 38, seven have covered 18 yards or less and 14 have covered 50 yards or less.
On 21 of opponents' 38 scoring drives, they began either in WVU territory or beyond their own 40-yard line. Louisville last week even got a field goal after losing 7 yards on a possession following a Mountaineer fumble.
Again, though, that can't be used as an excuse.
"I don't care what the situation is,'' first-year head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Your job is to go out there and stop people.''
It's not just turnovers, though, that have put West Virginia's defense in bad situations. The Mountaineers have had four punts this season travel 14 yards or less - two each by Corey Smith and Matt Molinari - have had 27- and 28-yard punts and have given up a handful of long kickoff returns (aside from the two scores).
Each of those put the defense in bad situations, and on several occasions that defense responded. But it still meant points surrendered, like a 1-yard Rutgers "drive'' after a 28-yard punt from the end zone.
The bottom line, though, is that those are the times when the defense has to play its best.
"On the times we shanked a punt they still had to go 55 yards and 65 yards. That's not a tremendously short field. That's normal to the point that you've got to play defense,'' Holgorsen said, referring to two shanks against Louisville. "If you keep looking for excuses then you're not going to get any better. There are plenty of ways to spin everything in football, but I don't buy into that.''
Casteel agreed, even if the numbers are all working against his unit. Of those 10 turnovers the offense has made in its own end, one was returned for a touchdown (freshman backup quarterback Paul Millard's first pass against Connecticut). Of the other nine, opponents drove 50, 44, 35, 11 and 1 yards for touchdowns and went minus-7 and 1 yards for field goals.
Only twice the defense held with three-and-outs, once at midfield and again at the 35.
"The kids have been put in some tough situations at times, but if you look back last year they were put in some tough situations and they were able to get out of it,'' Casteel said. "It's part of the game.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.