MORGANTOWN - There aren't a lot of people willing to run to the defense of Jeff Mullen these days.
The West Virginia offensive coordinator is taking much of the heat for his unit's failure to generate enough offense to complement a defense that has done its job, the result of which has been two straight low-scoring losses to underdogs Syracuse and Connecticut.
And that's fine with Mullen. He'll take the heat. If the offense isn't producing, it's his fault. In that context, it doesn't matter if the criticism is of the play calls, the execution, the turnovers or whatever is the flavor of the day. He is still in the buck-stops-here position of being in charge of that offense, so its deficiencies are his responsibility no matter the cause.
"It's my job,'' Mullen said. "And whatever the problems are, I have to correct them.''
Know this, though: Mullen is not ready to cave in to those who believe that it is some vast schematic flaw that has doomed the West Virginia offense in recent weeks. He remains adamant that what the Mountaineers are doing is right. They just have to learn to do it better.
Take his oft-criticized play calling, for instance.
"You'd be surprised how many times I've been booed for what was a systematic great play call,'' Mullen said. "It should have hit. Somebody missed a block or the back missed the hole or somebody dropped the ball. And it's also surprising how many times I've been cheered for a terrible play call when someone makes a great play and goes for a touchdown.
"Nobody sees that with the naked eye. So what we have to make sure is we're putting our kids in a successful situation.''
That's why, as West Virginia heads into Saturday's noon home game with Cincinnati following an off week, there appear to be no dramatic changes on the horizon. Following WVU's 16-13 overtime loss at Connecticut two weeks ago, Mullen seemed as despondent as he possibly could have been. If ever it seemed as if it was time to make some major changes, that night in East Hartford was it.
But an off week spent analyzing and evaluating the offense proved to Mullen only what he already knew - that while there is certainly room to improve things and fine-tune performances, the system isn't the problem.
"It wasn't Connecticut,'' Mullen said. "We didn't have a problem moving the ball against Connecticut. We had no problem moving the ball against Connecticut. I don't mean that disrespectfully, but it's just true. That's the frustrating part.''
Indeed, the facts bear that out to a point. It's more than just the total yards, which can sometimes be a misnomer. West Virginia had 414 yards of total offense and a season-high 254 rushing against UConn. But the Mountaineers have had five games of 400-plus yards this season and that hasn't changed the fact that scoring has often been a problem. Yards don't always matter.
A better illustration of Mullen's point that West Virginia had no trouble moving the ball against the Huskies might be the drive chart, which shows that in 13 offensive possessions the Mountaineers had just one three-and-out. That's 12 of 13 drives in which WVU moved the ball enough to gain at least one first down. Of those 12, one resulted in a touchdown, two in field goals and the other nine ended with two fumbles, a turnover on downs (because of a fumble) and six punts.