MORGANTOWN - Perhaps West Virginia goes to Stillwater, Okla., this weekend and wins. After all, stranger things have happened.
In order to do so, though, it will take correcting a litany of issues that seems to grow by the week, not shrink.
Yes, there's an argument to be made that the Mountaineers improved in some areas during the off week that preceded Saturday's game with TCU. But the very fact that West Virginia lost to a struggling team at home after throwing away almost countless chances to win would seem to indicate beyond a doubt that not enough improvement was made.
The simple fact is that while some areas improved, others regressed. Badly. Thus that 39-38, double-overtime loss.
The biggest area of improvement? Defense. It was a group that produced six three-and-outs and three turnovers. TCU averaged just 2.8 yards per rush and completed but 43 percent of its passes. The Horned Frogs found themselves punting nine times. That's almost twice as many punts as WVU's previous four opponents had combined (5).
But is it really wise to look at this as some sort of defensive resurrection? TCU, quite frankly, is very limited on offense with a redshirt freshman quarterback who was thrown into the fire a month ago, its leading rusher out for the season and injury problems elsewhere.
Consider that TCU went into a game against the worst pass defense in the nation with an apparent conviction to run the football, rather than trust Trevone Boykin to throw against that sieve-like secondary. The Horned Frogs ran the ball on 45 of 75 offensive snaps and threw only when necessary.
Oh, and when it was necessary, they got it done. Any apparent improvement in West Virginia's pass defense throughout most of the game was erased when the outcome was on the line and Josh Boyce got behind everyone to catch a 94-yard touchdown pass with 88 seconds to play to send the game into overtime. And then a trick-play pass in the second overtime went for 25 yards and a touchdown and another completed pass won it with a two-point conversion.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
But struggles with the defense are to be expected. No one thought that overnight this group would become the Steel Curtain. It was pretty much a given that the most likely way things would be turned around would be if the other parts of WVU's game rendered moot the defensive deficiencies. That was how West Virginia got to 5-0 in the first place, right?
But in almost every area the Mountaineers have gone backwards.
The offense is a mere shadow of its once-fearsome self. After scoring three touchdowns in the previous two games, a 38-point outburst might seem a step in the right direction. But West Virginia punted eight times, matching the number in the previous two lopsided losses combined. Of the five touchdowns the Mountaineers scored, one came on a punt return, another after a turnover and a 9-yard drive (that took four plays), and a third on the 25-yard overtime field.
That means of the 19 possessions in the game - yes, 19 - two resulted in work-for-it touchdowns by the offense. The running game averaged 2.2 yards on 35 attempts. For the second time in three games, Geno Smith completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes after completing 81 percent in the first five games.