MORGANTOWN-With three games remaining in its regular season and needing at least one more victory to become bowl eligible, WVU's defense understands that the team's success in that final trio of contests will rest a good bit on the unit's continued improvement.
"We definitely need to win out for sure," said sophomore linebacker Jared Barber. "It's a big test coming in. But, I think if we work hard, play hard, and just fly around out there on all three sides of the ball we can be pretty hard to beat."
The problem has been, however, West Virginia hasn't been solid on all three sides of the football during the Mountaineers' four-game losing streak.
"We just wanted to go back to the basics," said junior linebacker Doug Rigg. "Just having fun and playing hard. Instead of looking at it as if we do something wrong, this will happen mentally. I think we really got back to the basics, and saw improvement because of it."
The unit will face, perhaps, the most talented offense it has seen this season in the Sooners from Oklahoma University.
"I grew up watching Oklahoma all the time," continued Rigg. "They're a great team, and it could really turn our season around if we get a win against a top team in Morgantown and boost the morale of the team.
"Not many people on this team have gone through a four-game losing streak. Just getting a win, especially against a great team, will help our confidence a lot and propel us to win these last games of the season."
Something that could help as well would be the return of a Mountaineer offensive attack that put huge numbers in its first five games of the season. And, key to that, is a running game that has shown signs of improvement, but has yet to be consistent enough to win ballgames.
"It (the running game) is a huge issue," said head coach Dana Holgorsen. "We did a poor job of establishing the line of scrimmage. Look at all our third and shorts. We have no push. We had none.
"We were garbage on third and short, fourth and short, when we handed the ball off. That is a combination of just not controlling the line of scrimmage up front and not having good enough running backs to be able to get the yards that we need."
"Shawne (Alston) is hurt," continued the coach. "It is not what people want to hear, but he is hurt. That is why he is not playing. Dustin (Garrison) is still six months out of being where he was last year, which means we put it in the hands of Andrew Buie, who is averaging almost five yards a rush, but you give it to him 20 times a game, he is going to wear down.
"We are working extremely hard to recruit about five or six running backs who can come in here and give us help and until that happens, it is what it is."
And, what it is, is a 'must win' scenario for the team in old gold and blue if it wants to continue its present run of playing in a bowl during the holidays.