MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Confidence is fleeting.You can do the same thing in the same way nine times in a row and get it right every time, but if the 10th time turns into a disaster, poof, it can be gone.Well, West Virginia's football team probably hasn't done anything right nine times in a row this season. Maybe not even four or five very often.The Mountaineers have, however, had just enough success at times doing a variety of things that it might seem logical to assume that confidence was building. In just the past two weeks, the offense - and this is rare - has put together back-to-back scoring drives. Against Texas Tech, it did so a stunning (at least for this group) five straight possessions.
The defense, too, has had success at various times throughout the season. But as long as we're concentrating on the most recent, how about holding Kansas State without a score on seven of the game's first eight possessions last weekend?Yet every time, a team that seems to know how to do things and proves it in spurts manages to be brought back to earth with a thud.The defense that made Kansas State look like, well, Kansas State for more than a half promptly made the Wildcats look like Baylor, scoring touchdowns on four straight possessions.The offense that has struggled to find a rhythm all season long has ended the last two games by failing to score a point on its final five and then four possessions, respectively, both times when doing so even once or twice would have made all the difference in the world.Confidence? It's hard to build that when something always
eems to go wrong. Or at least it would appear that way.
"No, we didn't think, 'Oh, here it goes again,' ' quarterback Clint Trickett said of the meltdown that resulted in West Virginia's latest loss, a 35-12 drubbing at Kansas State. "It wasn't anything like that, a déjà vu type thing. It was just a simple lack of execution and [Kansas State] played great.''Or was it?"Is it confidence? That probably has something to do with it,'' coach Dana Holgorsen said. "I don't know. Maybe we're just not coaching it very well.''Truth be told, eight games into what increasingly appears to be a lost season for a program that isn't used to lost seasons, it is probably a bit of both.
Sure, there are always other mitigating factors. Hey, a lack of talent might be one, huh? Again, increasingly this appears not to be a matter of confidence or coaching or execution or any of the other myriad excuses folks use when things don't go well, but rather just a bad football team playing bad football.
Still, the evidence seems to suggest otherwise, at least to a point. A truly bad football team doesn't do some of the things this one has done this season, like take No. 10 Oklahoma to the wire and whack preseason Big 12 favorite and then-No. 11 Oklahoma State."At times,'' defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said, "we look like a football team.''Yet two-thirds of the way through the season, the only way that West Virginia can salvage the only real goal it ever had - bowl eligibility - is to win three of the final four games.If you're counting, it was the 5-0 start to 2012 that marked the last time this team put together anything even close to a 3-1 record. They've won back-to-back games just once since then - a span of 16 games during which the Mountaineers have gone 5-11 - and have been outscored by 210 points by teams not named Georgia State and Kansas."It's heartbreaking,'' senior safety Darwin Cook said. "Anybody in that type of situation . . . it's your last go-around and you want to make it your best one. Evidently we're not doing what we're supposed to be doing right now. It's disappointing, but we just have to go back [to practice] on Tuesday and go back to work or the same thing will happen again.''Can this team drag itself out from the depths, though?
Yes, there are at least three teams remaining on the schedule that West Virginia can beat. But 3-5 TCU this week is playing at home and WVU has won exactly one road game (Iowa State) in that 16-game stretch. Iowa State 1-6 in large part because it has faced WVU's Big 12 schedule (its four league opponents are a combined 14-2 in conference play). Kansas is Kansas and there's no sugar-coating the Jayhawks, but the game is another of those roadies.Shoot, even Texas is beatable if for no other reason than somehow WVU hasn't lost to the Longhorns in just about anything since joining the Big 12 (a combined 5-1 in football, men's basketball and baseball).Winning, though, in so many ways means believing you can win. And that's where shattered confidence doesn't help matters much."We're losing, so sure, you're not going to be as confident as you were,'' Cook said. "But you just have to stick to your game plan, stick to what you do best and practice hard.''And that's saying all the right things. Doing it could be another story entirely.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.