STILLWATER, Okla. - In making a not-so-subtle change in game-day responsibilities among his defensive coaches, Dana Holgorsen seems to have successfully hit upon at least one small way to improve that side of the football.
But how much of a difference it really makes might never be known. After all, there are tons of moving parts here.
Maybe sending defensive coordinator Joe DeForest up to the press box and bringing co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson down to the field was a significant move. Or maybe it's being overblown. Tune in this afternoon when West Virginia visits Oklahoma State and there might be more evidence.
Or there might not.
West Virginia's defense seems to have played better much of the time during last week's 39-38 overtime loss to TCU. It allowed fewer yards and fewer points than it had in any game in more than a month and matched the fewest points (31) it had allowed to an FBS team in regulation all season.
(We will pause here to allow you to absorb that last statement. In allowing 31 points, WVU matched its low yield for the season over four quarters. So 31 is now where the defensive bar is set. Thirty-one.)
Anyway, in evaluating what made the defense better than it had been for virtually the entire season, there are a few possibilities to be considered. There's also the rather legitimate question of whether the defense actually was better.
We'll address that last thought first. As we mentioned earlier this week, WVU's defense had six three-and-outs, forced three turnovers and allowed only two touchdowns in the game's first 581/2 minutes. Great. But it also did so against a TCU offense that refused - until backed into corners in regard to down-and-distance or score - to throw the football, which is the WVU defense's weak link. So is an awful pass defense that isn't passed on really playing better? You be the judge.
As far as potential reasons the defense might have been better, well, the DeForest-Patterson switch is only one to consider.
There were also three new starters in safety Cecil Level, cornerback Ishmael Banks and linebacker Jared Barber.
There was the week off after embarrassing 49- and 55-point yields in losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State that came after 63- and 45-point performances by Baylor and Texas.
There was a reschooling in the areas of fundamentals.
There was also a simplification of certain parts of the defense.
The best guess here is that the redistribution of coaching responsibilities played into whatever improvement might have been made. DeForest hasn't spent a lot of time in the press box during his coaching career, but if the defense was better because of the calls and changes he was making from upstairs, keep him there.