MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia, unranked and entering Saturday's noon home game in danger of its first three-game losing streak since the end of the 2004 football season, has a pretty simple, if not very convenient outlook for the matchup with Cincinnati.
"They're a team like us where they're a drop here, maybe a missed assignment there, a fumble here from having a heck of a good year," Mountaineers Coach Bill Stewart said.
WVU is 5-3, Cincinnati 3-5 and both are 1-2 in Big East play. They're tied for last place in the conference, after the preseason's media poll put them in a tie for second. Cincinnati has the Big East's best offense, WVU has the best defense ... yet both have been undone by turnovers.
In the Big East, only the Bearcats are worse than WVU in turnover margin.
The Mountaineers, however, believe they can still achieve very large goals. They know to do so they must beat everyone the rest of the way - and hope a few things break their way before the end of the schedule - but they must also not beat themselves.
"What we've got to continue to do to get better is put an emphasis on what we're getting wrong and get better at it," Stewart said.
Again, simple and convenient, and these are the Mountaineers who not only believe they are what stands in the way of victory, but have also proved that on three occasions this season.
Turnovers and a punt return touchdown allowed at LSU, turnovers and crippling penalties against Syracuse and at Connecticut were very costly.
These are things everyone knows and nobody is more painfully aware than the Mountaineers. They choose not to bleed, but to believe.
"If we don't fumble at the 1-yard line, if we don't throw an interception in the end zone, the mood would be a lot different and the sensationalism wouldn't be what it is today," Stewart said.
You ask how the Mountaineers chose to recover from their nasty habit of giving the ball, if not the game, away this season? There is your answer.
Stewart and his coaches and players are not ignoring the problem. They worked on it in practice and, in essence, went back to not just the basics, but to the beginning and did a lot of the things during the open week they do during the opening week of spring or fall practice.
And it's not just for the offense. WVU has created only 12 turnovers, which ranks No. 91 out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Two of those were turnovers forced on kickoff returns.
Stewart is asking his defense to produce more than it already has in ranking as one of the top defenses in multiple categories.
"Our players, every time we catch a ball as a receiver, get whacked with a dummy," Stewart said. "Someone is ripping it out of their arms. I told the defense - the scout defense, the first and second defense when we go against each other - rip the ball out.