MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Lost in the obsession about everything West Virginia did in the final 8:29 of regulation and in overtime Friday night at Marshall - to preserve not only a football game but perhaps a season and possibly even a regime - is just how bad things looked minutes earlier.
Before two drives covered the length of the field and set up the stunning comeback's completion, the Mountaineers submitted arguably the worst offensive sequence in the now two-plus seasons Bill Stewart has been the team's coach.
The Thundering Herd took what surely looked like an insurmountable 21-6 lead five seconds into the final quarter and WVU took over at its 24-yard line.
The offense followed with penalties for holding and a false start, a dropped screen pass and then a bad snap that led to a fumble and a 7-yard loss.
A punt on fourth-and-30 was a win for the Mountaineers. At the rate they were going, they could have kicked from the field house, stayed there to shower and then boarded the bus.
The WVU defense then forced a punt and gave the offense one more last chance, one the offense gave right back when quarterback Geno Smith was blindsided and lost a fumble.
The Mountaineers retreated to their sideline. Smith was steamed and stormed off the field, which was no doubt symbolic of the storm he was about to whip up on the sideline and then the field.
"I had my head down," center Joe Madsen said. "Geno came over and started screaming at me - but it was nice to see him take that leadership spot and get on us. I was anxious to get back out there after that."
In an instant, WVU went from looking like it wanted nothing to do with the final 10 minutes to believing it could do something special. For that, the team can thank Smith, not because he led a 96-yard drive before leading a 98-yard drive, but because he picked up a beaten team with his right arm and carried it back onto the field.
Having done that, the rest was fairly simple and the sophomore made it look that way with 14 completions and a touchdown on 17 attempts.
"I guess you could say I lost my cool, but I made a point to the guys that I was here to play and I wanted to win," Smith said. "I saw a lot of guys with their heads down on the sideline and I thought it was my job to fire them up.
"At the end of the day, we all came together and found a way to win."
The 21st-ranked Mountaineers, as an offense, still rely on Noel Devine and Jock Sanders as their leaders in competition and in the locker room. Listen to their teammates speak, look at the respect and attention given to them by the opposition and it's easy to understand why.
It's even easier for the rest of the offense to stand around and expect them to do something special and extricate them for a situation like the one they found themselves in Friday night.