MORGANTOWN - The fourth quarter of West Virginia's 37-27 loss to Texas Tech will be lodged in Mountaineers fans' minds this week, but before its late collapse, WVU did a lot of positive things on offense.
Don't forget the Mountaineers were down 13-3 and possibly more if Isaiah Bruce had not recovered a Red Raider fumble at the WVU 1-yard line.
Then the West Virginia offense took over the game and put together a string of positives, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson saw when he went back and watched the game film.
''We went three and out the first drive, but the next seven drives, we drove the field,'' he said. ''A lot of them started on the 10-yard line, so that's a positive. I think we scored five times in a row. Two times in a row we went down and fumbled, and then we went down and had three penalties that got us into a third-and-30, but we were right at the 15-yard line when we got the first penalty. The positive thing is, after the first drive, for three quarters, we moved the ball the whole field every time. In my opinion, that's better then what we've been doing.''
Following Bruce's fumble recovery until the start of the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers ran 36 plays, gained 253 yards and scored 24 points.
West Virginia also kept the ball out of Texas Tech's hands from 5:48 remaining in the second quarter until the 9:13 mark in the third, expect for a Red Raiders kneel down to run the 23 seconds off the clock until halftime.
Then the Mountaineers' axle fell off when it hit a speed bump in the fourth quarter.
In the final 15 minutes of play, WVU's numbers dropped dramatically as the offense ran 16 plays for 29 yards and didn't score a single point.
''I think there's probably a lot of factors into that,'' Dawson pointed out. ''Part of it is the players that were making mistakes were players that have never been in that situation before in a Big 12 game that was on the line. They didn't make plays. But those kids can make those plays and the way they're going to make those plays is with us encouraging them and putting them in those situations over and over again. That's the only way I know how to do it.
''It's not hard to try to find positives in that game because we did have a lot of kids playing well. (Wide receiver) Kevin (White) made some plays down the field. (Quarterback) Clint (Trickett) played better. It's not hard to find positives, but now we have to finish. We have to finish as a group.
''If we continue to get better, and we continue to get better on all three sides of the ball, and play together, we can win games. We can win the rest of them. But you have to win the next one to win the rest of them. We'll see how it goes.''
The Start of Something Good
Tuesday night during player interviews in the Milan Puskar team room, White was asked what his goals were for the rest of the season.
The 6-foot-3 junior looked up, smiled and simply replied, ''dominate.''
His answer didn't really come as a surprise to any of his teammates, especially Trickett.
''Being down at Florida State and seeing what those guys have been doing the past couple of years, I've been around some very talented receivers,'' the quarterback said. ''Kevin is definitely in that mix as far as talent goes. He's an elite wide receiver. He's starting to make plays and is starting to believe in himself. I'm not sure if he was doing that in the beginning of the year. He didn't know how really good he could be. Now he's starting to get that dog in him, that mentality that when the ball is in the air, it's his.''
With Trickett starting the past three games, and quite possibly the remainder of them, the pair's chemistry has grown tremendously.
''He's more vocal to me, which is good to an extent,'' Trickett said. ''He'll say 'hey, if you throw it up, I'm going to go get it.' It's not a bad thing. It's not like a (Terrell Owens) thing.
''There's almost two different kinds (of continuity). There's a game kind then there's a practice kind. We're starting to get that game continuity down.''
''He likes to throw the deep balls,'' White said of Trickett. ''He gives me a shot all the time. We're just getting better and better week by week.
''(The quarterbacks) all have different types of deep balls. Paul (Millard's) comes down a little bit different. Trickett's just float up there just a little bit longer and that gives me time to react more.
''I like the chemistry I have with Trickett.''
That chemistry has the potential to be on full display Saturday in Manhattan.
Kansas State has held its opponents to 157 yards rushing per game and will look to shut down Charles Sims and Dreamius Smith after the two running backs combined for 166 yards and two touchdowns against Texas Tech.
When the Wildcats load the box to stuff the run, it will open up opportunities for White to get 1-on-1 coverage.
Even if White doesn't complete the catch, the deep throw could draw a pass interference penalty which happened three times against the Red Raiders when Trickett looked White's way.
If Trickett and White can get going early on the deep routes, things could open up underneath for Dakiel Shorts, who is also coming into his own.
''The guys are making plays,'' Trickett said. ''We're pretty comfortable with those guys and they're getting more confident. Maybe something big could happen.''
Suddenly it looks like West Virginia may have some offense after all.
Tony Viola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org