MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Make no mistake about it. What Keith Patterson and his West Virginia defense suffered through at Baylor a few weeks ago was tantamount to a cold-blooded assassination.
A group that a year ago made weekly eviscerations of its pride the norm was battered and beaten to epic proportions. Seventy-three points and 864 yards will do that.
Why, then, were the Mountaineers feeling seemingly worse late Saturday afternoon? Sure, Texas Tech rang up some big numbers - 37 points and 573 yards. The Red Raiders scored on seven of their 12 legitimate possessions. But compared to Baylor it was almost a rousing success.
The Bears scored on 10 of their first 11 possessions before losing interest, and nine were touchdowns. Texas Tech was forced into two turnovers, three punts and had to settle for three field goals.
But the difference wasn't so much statistical as it was competitive. That's what made the 37-27 loss so grating.
"Sometimes,'' Patterson said, "it's the closer losses that are harder to take.''
This was certainly a much closer loss, although the very fact that we're now grading the relativity of losses does not bode well.
"There were probably four third downs where, if we get off the field, the game is different,'' Patterson said. "Sometimes that's all it takes. Momentum changes and the game plays out differently. That's where we were.''
But if measuring the relative angst of losses does not bode well for a West Virginia team that is now under .500 (3-4) for the first time since a 1-2 start in 2008 - and for the first time this deep in a season since 2003 - perhaps this does:
Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are all in the rear-view mirror.
If you're a defensive coordinator, you have to pretty much breathe a sigh of relief at this point, right? Go ahead and take a look at the Big 12 statistics. Those are four of the top five teams in the league in total offense. The last two opponents, Baylor and Tech, are light years ahead of everyone else in the league in total offense and passing. Baylor is first in the country in total offense. Tech is second in passing.
They all are someone else's problem now, right Keith?
"Yeah, that's one way to look at it,'' Patterson said. "I hadn't thought of it like that.'