"They have to make plays. When you make plays it becomes a different story,'' Roberts said. "I told them to remember the questions they were getting after the Texas game. But you're only as good as your last play. That's what people remember.''
Indeed, after the Texas game - a 48-45 win on Oct. 6 - the feeling toward the secondary was quite different than it is now. No, the Mountaineers didn't play lights out in Austin. Quarterback David Ash completed 22 of 29 passes for 269 yards and the Longhorns were the first of three consecutive teams to embarrass WVU's defense with wide-open receivers on wheel routes. The Mountaineers gave up only 269 yards passing, but that was in great part because of Texas' preference to run the ball. WVU at that time ranked 117th in the country in pass defense.
But there were also signs of improvement, especially late in the game. West Virginia fought off two potential go-ahead Texas drives in the fourth quarter, once with a fourth-down pass breakup by Miller. It gave hope that more of the same was in store.
It wasn't. Or at least that hasn't been the case so far. In the two games since, Texas Tech's Seth Doege and Kansas State's Collin Klein have combined to complete 51 of 63 passes for 822 yards, nine touchdowns and just one interception, that on a ball that hit a Tech receiver in the hands and he couldn't hold it. Doege and Klein both set personal records for passing yards.
In an effort to mitigate the damage, Roberts and the rest of the defensive staff have attempted to simplify things like coverages and allow the corners and everyone else to play faster and without so much thought.
"Just play fast,'' Roberts said. "We've tried to simplify the book so that they can just play fast and have fun doing it.''
Throw in an off-week emphasis on tackling, communication and even catching the ball and the hope is that it is a different-looking defense that shows up Saturday against TCU. There have been signs of life in brief spurts, like at Texas, but they have to be far more consistent.
"We've shown the ability to go in and make some plays against a good offense,'' Roberts said. "We've got to do the same this week.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.