MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Every once in a while, Melissa Patterson will visit a West Virginia football practice and have a look at someone she thinks she knows, but doesn't recognize.
When the practice ends, the stranger puts his arm around her shoulders, but she can't shrug off what she feels.
"Why are you always hollering at them?" she asks.
It is then when her husband comes back into focus.
"I'm not hollering," Keith Patterson will say. "I'm coaching."
For 28 years as an assistant and a head coach in high school and as a position coach and a coordinator in college, that's what Patterson has known. For two seasons, that's what he's done at West Virginia. This year, he prowls the sidelines as the team's defensive coordinator with a visor shielding intense eyes and a whistle that's sometimes allowed to replace a scratchy voice.
"What people don't see behind the scenes are the relationships," Patterson said. "What they see is what transpires on game day and what transpires in practice.
"You're playing in front of 80,000 people at times, 65,000 people. You've got to put pressure on them. I tell them a diamond doesn't become a diamond without intense heat and pressure. Look, I want a bunch of diamonds."
Exactly what Patterson has this season isn't entirely clear, not after allowing 73 points in a game just one week after giving up only 21 points and scoring a defensive touchdown to help upset the No. 11 team in the country.
Yet the Mountaineers are better on defense, and were ranked No. 36 among the 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in scoring defense, No. 37 in total defense and No. 31 in pass defense after beating Oklahoma State. Those ranking were dashed when Baylor scored more points than any other opponent has in 109 years against the Mountaineers.
"I was calling the same things we called the first five weeks of the season, but you have to play with great energy and you have to play with great intensity," Patterson said. "That's my responsibility as a coach, make no mistake. I'm not going to put the blame on anybody buy myself. I'm the one who has to bring that out in my players and I obviously didn't do that."
It's easy to evaluate WVU's defense and note and commend improvements. The Mountaineers do different things with their defensive fronts and their coverages and they play a more aggressive style, but one change stands out among the others. Patterson is in charge.