MORGANTOWN -- In West Virginia's offense, has running back Noel Devine in 2010 become a new version of quarterback Jarrett Brown in 2009?
Through three games this season, offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen's use of Devine was living up to Coach Bill Stewart's preseason pledge to "put a lot on that young man's shoulders."
Devine carried 23, 23 and 27 times for 354 yards - 111, 112, and 131 yards, the first time he had three straight 100-yard games - and added 13 receptions and one kickoff return. He'd accounted for 458 yards and two touchdowns.
Then, a keystone to WVU's offense was once again undone by the opposition early in a game.
On the eighth play from scrimmage at LSU, Devine was tackled out of bounds and suffered a bone bruise to his right big toe.
In 2009, through five starts, quarterback Brown had completed 95 of 138 passes for 1,253 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions ... and four of those picks were in one forgettable game against Auburn.
As the Mountaineers opened 4-1, the fifth-year senior had a four-touchdown game and a 300-yard passing game to his credit and was named Big East player of the week once and a Heisman Trophy contender by then-East Carolina Coach Skip Holtz.
On fourth play of the sixth game, Brown had his lights turned out by helmet-to-helmet hits from two Marshall defenders. Brown didn't miss any starts, but in his next three was just 44-for-76 for 389 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Mullen would admit Brown was a "different kid ... different in a sense he's not healthy, he's not 100 percent, he's not coming off a four-, five-game stretch where he's leading the country in a lot of different statistics. He's gone through a couple weeks of getting banged up."
At the minimum, Brown was different in that he never recaptured his prior prowess.
The same, it could be argued, was to be said of the offense he led.
Are the Mountaineers there again?
Like a year earlier, when Stewart didn't like the nature of the hit on Brown - it was not flagged - he was miffed over the penalized late hit against Devine that occurred one snap after the Tigers were penalized 15 yards for tackling Devine by the facemask.
Asked later what he thought about the second hit on Devine, Stewart said, "Fifteen-yard penalty that was one of 12 (penalties against LSU)."