One common phrase the Mountaineer football coaches and players use is "all three sides of the ball." The phrase has come up often, especially after losses.
The special teams unit has had its fair share of blunders this season. Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeForest was recently under fire for allegations of violating NCAA rules during his time at Oklahoma State. DeForest's situation could have factored in as a distraction and may have been a reason this special teams has shown signs of being so undisciplined.
DeForest's name has been cleared as far as the allegations go, but the Mountaineers' special teams unit is far from in the clear. They still look undisciplined at times and small mistakes are costing them.
"Punt return, we tried three returners, all of them kept dropping them," said DeForest.
The punt returns have been dicey to say the least. Jordan Thompson has been fielding the punts, and DeForest is confident he can get the return game back on track.
A positive in the special teams unit has been punter, Nick O'Toole, who is doing a sound job at flipping the field for the Mountaineers. It's definitely a big improvement from last season. However, even O'Toole has shown signs of struggling including last game against Kansas State.
"You got to break it down to all four units," said DeForest. "Nick [O'Toole] had the worst day of his career [against Kansas State].Overall our punt team has been very productive; we're first in the league in net punting."
If O'Toole can continue to punt the ball well, the battle for field position should be in favor of the Mountaineers. Although, the other areas of the special teams will need to find improvement in these last four games.
The Mountaineers' defense has demonstrated earlier in this season that they're more than capable of being a dominant unit. A huge part of the upset victory against Oklahoma State was in part to the defense.
The defense started the game off great but a couple late possessions let the game slip away from the Mountaineers. As the saying goes, it's not how you start, it's how you finish and right now the Mountaineers aren't able to finish games.
"There are plenty of negatives to go around," said Defensive Coordinator Keith Patterson.
Even though there's a lot of a negative across the board, Coach Patterson still believes that this season isn't over. If the Mountaineers can win these last four games they'll probably be headed to a bowl game.
"Still a lot to play for," Patterson said. "I think it boils down a lot of times to confidence, confidence to play to win. Don't play hoping something good will happen to you."
Confidence is kind of tricky now that the Mountaineers have lost three straight. The Mountaineers can't lose confidence though. It'll be greatly needed in these next four games.
With the special teams unit looking to improve and the defense trying to finish out games; that leaves the offense.
Offense is the main course in head coach Dana Holgrosen's meal plan. This Mountaineer's offense hasn't found its identity all season long. A constant struggle to find the right quarterback has made for a lot of miscommunication and lack of trust. At times, the offense can click but as a whole there's a lot wrong.
"Scoring 12 points isn't going to beat anyone," said Offensive Coordinator Shannon Dawson. "We got to get better."
The Mountaineers scored a mere 12 points in their loss to Kansas State. That low scoring number isn't something Holgorsen is used to seeing on the scoreboard. During the weekly coach's teleconference call, Holgorsen said this offense is not a winning one, and that's been very evident.
Holgorsen after the loss to Kansas State acknowledge how lousy the offense looked. Holgorsen said he "thought it would take care of itself" after a couple games. However, that's far from true and the lack of success has been ongoing all season.
One could argue that quarterback Clint Trickett didn't have trust for his offensive line in the game against Kansas State. Trickett seemed to be uncomfortable or rushed on occasion, taking off out of the pocket before it was necessary. Even if the trust isn't there with the line, Trickett assures he's on the same page as his receivers.
"Our main core guys, I trust all of them," said Trickett.
Trust, confidence and execution are the three keys to all three sides of the ball. If the Mountaineers want to salvage this season and go bowling at the end of the year, they'll need to win these remaining four games. It won't be easy, no game is for these Mountaineers, but if they can execute and close out games they might have what it takes to end the season on a positive note.