Holgorsen said the number of run plays and screen passes made it easier for Smith and his protection to handle the Panthers and their pressure, even if it did make the Mountaineers abandon their game plan.
"They were pinning their ears back and we couldn't block them so we had to do some things to take some pressure off," Holgorsen said. "In the second half, we probably threw one or two natural drop-back passes, which is incredibly discouraging. That means we're not doing 60 percent of our offense based on the fact we couldn't block them."
Yet the Mountaineers won by getting away from a passing offense that ranks No. 6 nationally and leads the Big East, and saw Smith and receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin set single-season records against Pitt.
WVU won by trusting the run in the second half, first for 44 of the 60 yards on the first touchdown drive and then for 12 of the final 15 yards on the game-winning touchdown.
If ever there was an indication WVU is learning about itself and how to win, there it is.
"I really can't pinpoint it right now," Smith said. "Sometimes we come out and run the ball and we're lights out. Sometimes we come out and pass the ball and we're lights out. We've yet to put together a complete game on offense, but we're going to continue to work on it.
"Coach Holgorsen is still figuring out who we are and I'm still figuring out who I am in this offense. I think it's progressing and coming along and I still think it's going to be special in time."
The offense hasn't been great, but it's been good enough late in the season, thanks in large part to the defense. WVU has won consecutive games it had to have if it wanted to reach the BCS and scored 24 and 21 points.
That's a change for the Mountaineers, who had had been averaging 38.2 points in the first nine games. The defense was allowing 27.4 points in the first nine and had allowed 49, 31 and 38 before allowing 21 and 20 to Cincinnati and Pitt.
WVU figured out how to win both, first with a defensive touchdown and a blocked field goal against Cincinnati and then by allowing just 80 yards in the second half and getting nine sacks in the final 25 plays against Pitt.
"We were tired of getting criticized," said senior defensive tackle Julian Miller, who tied a school record with four of WVU's 10 sacks against Pitt.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142.