MORGANTOWN - For two weeks now, Dana Holgorsen has watched his defense fail even to slow an opponent, a nuisance that has contributed mightily - although not singularly - to West Virginia's back-to-back losses.
There is, after all, the not-so-trivial matter of an offense stuck in neutral that has also weighed in.
But even before the offense went south, things weren't exactly rosy on the defensive side of the ball. It just didn't seem as critical because the offense was able to outgun everyone else during a 5-0 start.
So what's the problem?
Well, to Holgorsen's credit, he hasn't pointed fingers. You may disagree with me on that, given his consistent and unwavering contention that there is nothing wrong with West Virginia's defensive scheme. If there's nothing wrong with the scheme, or so goes the party line, then he must be throwing the players who execute it under the bus, right?
Well, no. He's thrown everyone under the bus, from his players to his coaches to himself.
"I'm not saying that, no,'' Holgorsen said this week when presented with the ergo notion that if it's not the scheme then it must be the players. "We have to do a better job as coaches. We have to put them in better position to be successful. It's a combination.
"Nobody is pointing fingers anywhere. Nobody is doing that. We all have to understand, as coaches, that we need to put them in a position to be successful and what their technique needs to be. Ultimately, it comes down to getting them out there in practice and having them get better at what we want them to do. There are only a certain number of coverages or plays that we can run. If you try to make up for our deficiencies with more plays, it's going to confuse them.''
OK, so that absolves the players of complete blame. It's players and coaches, all in one big what-just-happened mess. Got it. It's a team effort.
But what of that scheme?
It would be far too simplistic to merely pin it on that. It would also be wrong. West Virginia fans complained for years about playing a junk defense, the 3-3-5. The flexible 3-4/4-3 front is not a junk defense. It's as mainstream as they come.
At some point, though, one has to question how it's being taught and who it's being taught to. If it's not the scheme, then it has to be either the coaches who are coaching it or the players who are playing it, right? There are no other variables.
But when you start delving into that, well, there are just a whole bunch of unknowns.
It's hard to imagine that West Virginia's talent level has dropped dramatically in such a short time, but remember that these players are mastering a different scheme in a far more difficult league in which to play defense.
And it's just as difficult to believe that coaches like Joe DeForest and Steve Patterson, successful elsewhere, have forgotten how to coach. But they are also in new positions (particularly DeForest, who has never been in charge of a defense), asking players they did not recruit to play a defense they don't know in a league that's foreign to them.