MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There's a lot about West Virginia's 2012 football season that doesn't make sense.
It had unattainable preseason hype and the inconceivable depths that followed; the undeniable talent on offense and the inexcusable defects on defense; and the 5-0 record and top-five ranking before the 2-6 slide and 24-point bowl loss.
Revisit the box scores, pore over the statistics, identify the trends and sort through the good and bad. One thing just seems to stand out among the numbers and ideas that try to identify one of the most disappointing teams in school history: The Mountaineers fell behind by 10 points or more in five games, each time in the first half, and lost all five.
It's not enough to say WVU wasn't a tough team. WVU was critically weak.
It happened in the meeting rooms, where lessons were taught on film and sometimes ignored, and on the field, where the defense could call out a play the opponent's offense was running and still couldn't stop it.
And what about in the classroom, where the team's starting center, the fifth-year senior with the most starts and maybe the greatest responsibility on offense, couldn't stay eligible and missed another bowl game?
Look at the players who left during the season. Keep track of who doesn't come back next season.
"I can't really explain it," receiver Stedman Bailey said. "I thought we'd do a better job because we've gone through adversity so many times in the past and have been able to respond to adversity and do a good job with it. This year, going to a new conference, I would say we didn't do a good job of adjusting."
The delicate nature of the team may not have been the biggest problem. Certainly the Big 12 Conference competition was a difference and the roster is still not yet in tune with the coaches because the offseason saw an overhaul of the defensive staff. The defense was abysmal, from start to finish, and the special teams were predictably unpredictable.
But that the Mountaineers were so non-menacing was perhaps the biggest surprise. Look at what happened late last season. Wins against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and South Florida were meat grinders. Cincinnati's loss ended on a blocked field goal. Pitt was finished by nine sacks in the final 25 plays. USF lost a fumble that set up WVU's game-winning, BCS-clinching field goal.
It was Eain Smith blocking the field goal, Julian Miller sacking Pitt's quarterback four times and Najee Goode causing the USF fumble - three seniors.
"I would say last year I think we had a few more veterans on our team than we did this year, especially on the defensive side of the ball, people like Keith Tandy and Bruce Irvin," Bailey said. "All those guys did a good job keeping the team together and letting the younger guys know we always had a shot if we'd come together and keep fighting. We tried the same thing this season, but we didn't get it done."
Don't forget the Orange Bowl, where the starting running back and a backup inside receiver, who was going to play because of other injuries at the position, were lost to injuries.