MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's offense had its second-highest scoring total this season Saturday and the third-best in 35 games since Coach Bill Stewart and his staff took over before the 2008 season.
The Mountaineers followed games with 20, 19 and 13 points - losses in the latter two - with a 37-10 victory against Cincinnati that came at a convenient time.
After the program's first back-to-back Big East Conference losses since 2004, Stewart promised a "total self-evaluation" of his program and a lot of his attention went toward the offense and its coordinator, Jeff Mullen.
Five touchdowns answered a lot of questions, but prompted others, most notably, "What was different against the Bearcats?"
"We executed and didn't turn the ball over," WVU quarterback Geno Smith said. "That was the only difference. I feel like we had the athletes to go out there and score points on anybody. That's if we don't turn the ball over. We've had production all season. We don't score points when we have turnovers."
It all sounds very convenient for the Mountaineers, but it was something they needed to fix and, for a week, it worked. Through Stewart's two-plus years, almost all of his 11 losses have been marred by turnovers and penalties that have kept scoring low.
"We beat ourselves and it shows," nose guard Chris Neild said. "I'm not taking anything away from any loss we've ever had - the teams that we've lost to got the best of us that day - but there are times throughout the games where we slipped up and we beat ourselves and it shows at the end."
WVU has committed 24 turnovers and 52 penalties for 494 yards in Stewart's 11 losses. In averaging nearly five penalties per game, WVU has committed between five and nine four times. Seven games have seen at least two turnovers, including games with six, four and three. The turnover margin in the 11 defeats is minus-13.
When Stewart's teams win the turnover battle, they're 14-2. When they lose it, they're 7-7. In the 11 losses, WVU has lost the turnover battle seven times and finished even (2-2) once. Removing a 41-30 loss at Auburn last season, where the offense turned the ball over six times, the Mountaineers have scored between 3 and 23 points in the other 10 games.
In losses this season, WVU has nine turnovers (to the opposition's three) and has committed 16 penalties. The offense has scored 14, 14 and 13 points and WVU has lost while allowing 20, 19 and 16.
Again and again this season the Mountaineers have been asked variations of the same question: Have they lost games or have they been beaten in games?