MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Dana Holgorsen tried his best a few times Tuesday to put things in perspective where his West Virginia football team stands in terms of injuries.
"We're pretty beat up,'' Holgorsen said during his weekly press conference. "But it's game 11. Everybody's beat up.''
"We're not going to use it as an excuse,'' he said.
Still, what is happening - and has happened since before the season even began - on the injury front is taking a huge toll on the Mountaineers, particularly the team's defense.
Linebackers Jared Barber and K.J. Dillon - Barber is the team's second-leading tackler and Dillon one of the defense's most versatile parts - are the latest Mountaineers to be scratched for the season. Barber will have surgery for a torn ACL suffered in last week's overtime loss to Texas and be out at least six months. Dillon reacted badly to dehydration he suffered that same night, spent several days in a hospital intensive care unit and won't play again this season, Holgorsen said.
"And then there are 20 other people on this [injury] list that are day-to-day,'' Holgorsen said. "We'll just have to go out there and practice and see how they do.''
As West Virginia (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) prepares for a Saturday game at Kansas (2-7, 0-6), the end of the regular season can't come soon enough for the Mountaineers, at least from an injury point of view.
The loss of Barber and Dillon brings to eight the number of defensive players who have been lost for the season, six of them linebackers. The others are linebackers Doug Rigg (at least for the regular season), Dozie Ezemma, Shaq Petteway and Wes Tonkery, along with cornerback Nana Kyeremeh and lineman Christian Brown. All were starters or at least on the two-deep.
That number doesn't include at least eight other defenders who have missed games (or at least were very limited) because of injuries - Dontrill Hyman, Nick Kwiatkoski, Daryl Worley, Isaiah Bruce, Jewone Snow, Brandon Napoleon, Ricky Rumph and Terrell Chestnut.
Of those 16 players, nine have started games this season or earlier in their careers and all were - or still are - being counted on to play.
How do the Mountaineers replace them? Well, usually by plugging in backups, although many of the former backups are now starters. Holgorsen said it's too late to burn any more redshirts, as he did in the eighth week of the season when he began playing freshman Darrien Howard at nose guard.
"No, it's backup guys like Tyler Anderson. It's backup guys like Jewone Snow,'' Holgorsen said. "Eric Kinsey needs to come on. Darrien Howard needs to take more snaps. Noble [Nwachukwu] needs to take more snaps.