MORGANTOWN - Up until about a week ago, you might have had a hard time finding one clear way to define how special West Virginia's defense is this season.
You could have simply recited the statistics at the end of the regular season: No. 3 nationally in total defense, No. 2 in scoring defense, No. 2 against the run, No. 3 on third down, No. 3 in sacks, No. 11 against the pass and best in the Big East in those, except pass defense.
You could have thrown out the superb superlative: Every one of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams allowed more than 21 points in a game this season except the Mountaineers. They allowed 21 against Marshall ... in the second game of the season.
After that, only LSU managed 20 and needed a punt return touchdown, a 7-yard touchdown drive and a 9-yard field goal drive to get there. Syracuse scored 19 points and kicked four field goals.
Then there was this intriguing dynamic to consider: The defense controlled every offense, even its own.
When WVU took a lead, the opponents reacted in a way that made their deficit seem larger than it really was. They abandoned the run early because they knew it wasn't going to work. They tried to score quickly because they knew long drives and repeated success weren't likely.
And because of that, WVU's defense also altered WVU's offense. The Mountaineers played dramatically different when they had a lead. They aggressively avoided risks and tried to maintain possession with a greater emphasis being put on consuming clock than scoring points.
They trusted the other team couldn't score even if it had the ball.
Any one of those ways could have accurately encapsulated how great WVU was and is on defense this season as it heads to a Champs Sports Bowl date Tuesday night against North Carolina State.
But not now. Last week came very big news, and with it an angle so acute it needs to be dissected to be understood.
Athletic Director Oliver Luck pretty much fired Bill Stewart, and say what you will about finances and ticket sales and attendance and the like, but the offensive ineptitude was as large a reason as any other.
Luck made a bravely bold move to stage Stewart's retirement and replace him with Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, as well as whomever Holgorsen picks to be a part of next year's offensive staff.
Yet Luck and Holgorsen have agreed to keep the defensive staff intact. You think about that.
Luck is in his first year as WVU's AD and he's begun a renovation project that affects the entire athletic department, and not just the football program. If this blows up, it does so in the face of Luck.