MORGANTOWN - Take a look at the failings of West Virginia's offense over the last two games and it's not easy to pinpoint a cause.
Dana Holgorsen, not surprisingly, points to tempo. Holgorsen is a big believer in tempo.
"We haven't played with great tempo,'' Holgorsen said. "When we play best, we have great tempo.''
It's not that his offense has to play at break-neck speed, but he does like it to play fast. It's all in how the game is going and if there's an opportunity to speed up the pace, go for it. That tends to put a defense on its heels and then any success snowballs.
The problem is there hasn't been much success of late, so it's dangerous to speed up the pace. Do that and one risks quick three-and-outs that put an overmatched defense back on the field in a hurry. But fail to pick up the pace and it becomes easier for opposing defenses to substitute, make adjustments and stop that offense.
There has to be a balance between playing smart and playing fast.
"There are things that you need to have settled. A good balance of that is when we're at our best,'' Holgorsen said. "We were probably a little too settled last week [during a 55-14 loss to Kansas State], which is 100 percent my fault. We should have pushed the envelope on some things.''
It's not just tempo, though. Another thing West Virginia was great at during a 5-0 start was mixing plays, and that's more than just a run-pass ratio.
The Mountaineers were able to spread defenses not just horizontally, but also vertically. A decent running game forced defenses to remain strong in the box, Tavon Austin forced them to cover the field from sideline to sideline and Stedman Bailey provided a deep threat that stretched the defense down the field.
In the last two games, though, that deep threat hasn't been there. Geno Smith's longest pass completion against Kansas State was just 13 yards. He had a 38-yarder to Austin the week before in a 49-14 loss at Texas Tech. But those were the only two pass plays of more than 20 yards in the two games.
In the previous five games, WVU had 26 pass plays of more than 20 yards.