MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - It's impossible to look at West Virginia's troubles on offense this season without pointing to turnovers as a prime concern.
Yes, they've actually been overshadowed by other offensive issues, not the least of which is an inability to throw the football. In four games, the Mountaineers have thrown for 876 yards. In one game alone last season, against Baylor, WVU had 700 yards passing.
Consider for a moment, though, what turnovers have wrought.
In a loss at Oklahoma, the Mountaineers were driving for a go-ahead touchdown when wide receiver Kevin White fumbled at the OU 16 yard line. Paul Millard also threw an interception in Oklahoma territory and Mario Alford fumbled a punt that set up the Sooners' only touchdown of the game.
Then last weekend at Maryland, another fumbled punt, this one by Ronald Carswell, and a pass interception led to the Terps' first two touchdowns and a 14-0 lead. Before the first half was done, Ford Childress would throw another interception at his own 6 and it was 30-0 at the half.
No one is saying that simply holding onto the football will cure what ails the Mountaineers. But it would certainly help.
"It's not like there's one guy that we've giving the ball to a bunch and he's got a fumbling problem,'' coach Dana Holgorsen said. "It can be fixed pretty easy, and I think it will be.''
The breakdown of turnovers so far goes like this: Millard has thrown one interception and Childress three, punts have been fumbled and lost by Alford and Carswell, and quarterbacks, running backs and receivers have given it up the other six times. There was White's fumble and another by Millard in the pocket at Oklahoma, Millard was sacked and fumbled against William & Mary, and at Maryland both Sims and Wendell Smallwood fumbled deep in Maryland territory. The other fumble was credited to Childress on an ill-advised attempt to lateral to Sims while being sacked.
So the only player who has turned the ball over more than once on a fumble is Millard, who isn't playing anymore.
But if, indeed, those offensive fumbles can be remedied, there are still two other turnover issues that haunt the Mountaineers as they prepare for Saturday's home game against No. 11 Oklahoma State. The first is obvious.
"Well, we could field a punt,'' Holgorsen said. "That would be a start because that's been an issue.''