MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The Texas team that arrives Saturday night for a game with West Virginia is a bit of an enigma.
The trials the Longhorns have gone through have been well documented, as is everything regarding Texas football.
There was the 1-2 start after being ranked No. 15 in the preseason. There was the defensive implosion that resulted not only in allowing BYU to roll up 679 yards - including 550 rushing - on 99 plays in a lopsided loss, but with the forced departure of coordinator Manny Diaz.
There was the pressure on veteran coach Mack Brown and the five-game winning streak that has followed that 1-2 start. The latter has eased the former only slightly, almost imperceptibly.
And there is the not-so-subtle suspicion that the biggest reason Texas has been able to do a 180 this season is that the schedule the Longhorns have played over the past month or so was not all that challenging in the grand scheme of things. Among the five teams UT has vanquished in this run, only Oklahoma has a winning record, which helps explain why Texas has not yet climbed back into the Top 25.
As a matter of practicality, however, none of that matters as Texas (6-2, 5-0 Big 12) gets ready to visit West Virginia (4-5, 2-4), one team fighting for a Big 12 title and the other for bowl eligibility. All that really matters is that Texas is playing better and with a lot more confidence these days. If a team with the talent of the Longhorns has confidence, a lot of other things don't matter.
"It looks to me like their effort and their energy has been increasing as the year goes on,'' WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. "And that probably has something to do with confidence.''
Texas coach Mack Brown agrees.
"The No. 1 thing that's happened, outside of their confidence, is they're getting confident in each other and they really believe in each other,'' Brown said. "And we're playing better defense than we've played in the last few years.''
For this group of Longhorns, that's where it all starts - on defense. It's the reason Texas was so bad, and it's now the primary reason it is not.
Talent? That has never been an issue. It never is at Texas, which populates virtually every position on its team with four- and five-star recruits.
Coaching, though, was apparently a huge problem. A team with that much talent just can't surrender the kind of numbers Texas did against BYU without having some sort of fatal flaws in design or motivation or any of a number of other things coaches are charged with installing or instilling.