By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
Defensive Coordinator Jeff Casteel thinks West Virginia’s rebuilt football defense is getting a little bit better each week.
“But I don’t think we’re where we want to be yet,” he said going into Saturday’s home game against Big East rival Connecticut (2-3). The game will be televised locally on WOAY-TV 4.
“I don’t think anybody in coaching is. But, hopefully, we’re going to continue to get better and (hit a peak) in the latter part of the season.”
Casteel noted that the defensive unit, with seven new starters, continues to get incrementally better every week, and that’s encouraging.
The defensive improvement by the No. 16-ranked Mountaineers (4-1) is showing up in this week’s Big East statistics as conference play gets under way for most of the teams.
West Virginia is No. 2 in total defense. It’s giving up 306.4 yards per game, just 0.4 more than No. 1 Rutgers.
Casteel’s crew is No. 1 in pass defense, allowing only 179.0 yards per contest. And it’s No. 1 in pass defense efficiency (111.2).
However, WVU still needs to get better in some other areas defensively. It is seventh in scoring defense (22.6 points per game) and eighth in rushing defense, giving up an average of 127.4 ypg.
WVU is eighth in sacks with only three in five games and is tied for fourth with USF in interceptions (6).
Special teams need to get better in punting. They’re last (28.5 ypg). But they’re eighth in kickoff coverage. WVU is first in kickoff returns, averaging 23.4 yards.
West Virginia also is No. 1 in the conference in punt returns (14.0 average).
The league’s top tacklers include Mountaineers Pat Miller (36), Najee Goode (36), Terence Garvin (33), Darwin Cook (31) and Keith Tandy (27).