FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - By any known and valid statistical measurement, Bruce Irvin's senior season was a bust.
Statistics, though, don't always tell the whole story. In fact, in Irvin's case they illustrate almost none of it.
Sure, his sack total went from 14 a year ago in his first season of major college football to just 71/2 this season. Shoot, through the first five games of the season he had just one. After eight he had added only 11/2 more. In seven of WVU's 12 games he had none.
And this from a guy who was second in the nation in sacks last season and had improved so much from that year to this that some were envisioning 20 sacks or more.
Did it disappoint him that he couldn't live up to those expectations?
"It did. But then again it didn't,'' Irvin said. "People knew who I was this year. If it had been as easy as it was last year I would have thought something was up, that coaches shouldn't be coaches.''
And therein rests what is statistically unquantifiable. While Irvin doesn't have the numbers to prove what sort of a pass rusher he is, he still has the respect. And it's because week after week throughout the season he, more than anyone else on WVU's defense, forced opponents to change either what they did offensively or how they tried to do it.
"That's what the game is, adjustments,'' Irvin said. "People weren't going to let me come in and single-handedly beat them. They adjusted to the game, sliding the line my way or putting two or three people on me.
"I've seen some crazy things, but I just look at it as a respect thing. If teams have to change their whole game plan around me, I just look at it like they've got a lot of respect for me and that I'm a good ballplayer. That means a lot. But then again, I want to make a play. I want sacks, too.''
Figure on Clemson trying some different things to stop Irvin, too. West Virginia and the Tigers play Wednesday night in the Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium and Clemson ranks no better than No. 86 in the country in sacks allowed. Facing a WVU defensive line that includes the NCAA's active career leader in sacks in Julian Miller on side and Irvin on the other side, the Tigers likely have to make some adjustments.
Chances are good, though, that whatever the Tigers do to try to stop Irvin, it won't be anything he hasn't seen.
In fact, Irvin was shocked by some of the adjustments.
"One team slid the protection my way, rolled the quarterback out and still had the guard, the tackle and the running back chip on me,'' Irvin said, shaking his head in near bewilderment. "How do you do that? How do you expect me to win like that? I can't do nothing with that.''
Fortunately for Irvin, those who know and track such things don't pay much attention to statistics. NFL scouts see what teams did to try to corral him and the coaches who made those adjustments still voted him onto the All-Big East team.