MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Given all the angst over the state of West Virginia's offense through four games this season, it's only natural that the performance of the defense has been overshadowed.
But it's been, in a word, good.
Through four games, the Mountaineers have given up just 19.2 points, 323.5 yards (155 passing) and 15 first downs per game, while forcing an average of seven punts and holding teams to a 35 percent success rate on third downs.
Compare that to a year ago, when the averages were 38.1 points, 473.6 yards (313.7 passing), 23.4 first downs, four punts and a 46 percent success rate on third downs.
Granted, the competition has not been the same, but last season WVU allowed even the bad teams it played to run up yards and points. Against the two BCS-level teams West Virginia has played this season (3-0 Oklahoma and 4-0 Maryland), the numbers are still significantly improved.
Things are about to get a bit more dicey, however.
In the next three games over the next four weeks, West Virginia (2-2) faces arguably the three best offenses in the Big 12. This week brings No. 11 Oklahoma State (3-0) to Mountaineer Field for a noon game (ESPN). After that is a trip to Baylor, then a home game with Texas Tech after a week off. Those are the top three scoring teams in the league and three of the top four in total offense.
All three present a challenge WVU has yet to really face this season.
"They try to snap it about every 20 seconds,'' WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said of Oklahoma State. "That'll be different than what we've seen.''
Through those first four games, the only opponent that ever really tried to play fast on offense was Oklahoma, and even then nothing like the pace of the Cowboys and the next two opponents.
"Right now, Oklahoma State's trying the play faster than Oregon,'' Holgorsen said. "And if you think this is going to be fast, then next week Baylor's going to be even faster.''
In order to help prepare, Holgorsen said West Virginia will send its own offense against the defense more than usual this week in practice. Normally the defense faces primarily the scout team offense during the week.
Given West Virginia's offensive issues this season, however, perhaps having the defense go against the offense won't be much of an aid.
No, what should be of more help is how West Virginia's defense has schemed and prepared since the beginning of camp. Even though few opponents so far have tried to play fast against the Mountaineers, defensive coordinator Keith Patterson has attempted to structure his unit in a way that prepares for fast tempo and to get the kind of players who can adapt to it.