LUBBOCK, Texas - When all is said and done, West Virginia is likely to have faced more passes this season than in any other in school history.
Call that a product of two convergent circumstances - entry into the pass-centric Big 12 and ownership of a defense that fairly cries out to be passed upon. Through five games, opponents are averaging 37 attempts, a number that still is below the 43 the Mountaineers themselves are averaging, but a number that figures to steadily grow given WVU's success - or lack thereof - this season.
As far as Daron Roberts is concerned, the more passes the better.
"That's a good opportunity for a defensive back playing in the Big 12,'' said Roberts, West Virginia's cornerbacks coach. "By the end of the season you won't be able to say you didn't have enough opportunities to play the ball, because it's definitely going up in the air.''
Figure on the ball being in the air more than a few times this afternoon when No. 5 West Virginia (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) faces Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1) in a 3:30 p.m. game at Jones AT&T Stadium that will be televised by ABC.
The Red Raiders throw it. In fact, of the teams in the nation who have played five games, only Houston has thrown the ball more than Texas Tech's 224 times. Quarterback Seth Doege already has 15 touchdown passes, which is among the best in the nation among quarterbacks not named Geno Smith.
The question facing West Virginia today is, of course, can it stop Tech's passing game? On very few occasions this season have the Mountaineers done that. But at the end of last week's 48-45 win at Texas they did. Pat Miller broke up two crucial passes down the stretch, none bigger than a fourth-down throw that stopped a Longhorns drive late in the game with WVU leading by three.
For a defense - and especially for Miller - might that be worth a boost of confidence that could carry over from one week to the next?
"We'll see,'' Roberts said. "I told Pat this is a very fickle business. People will boo you one minute and cheer you the next, so you have to put together a consecutive string of good performances, and I think he's taken it upon himself that responsibility.''
No one has been more under the glare of the lights than Miller, the senior cornerback. Opponents have picked on just about everyone in the West Virginia secondary at one time or another this season, but Miller has been a favorite target.
When he hasn't come through, the results have been ugly. In fact, during WVU's 70-63 win at home to Baylor two weeks ago, he was cheered when replaced in the lineup.