MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Once upon a time, early in a season that seemed headed for a fairy tale finish, West Virginia had played 229 minutes, 13 seconds without trailing.
The Mountaineers, now ranked No. 23, enter Saturday's game having played 120 consecutive minutes without the lead.
"The last two games we haven't started fast and it's been that same thing we've talked about forever where we need to get into a rhythm," quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said. "We need to find that rhythm.
"It's just momentum. If those kids can get some confidence and keep it rolling, it's just crazy to be a part of it and to coach it when they guys can play on top of the world when they have just a little success."
Even worse for WVU, the opponent has scored on its opening drives the past two games. Texas Tech would extend to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter while Kansas State would lead 10-0 at the end of the first and 24-0 before the Mountaineers returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
"There's always that fright where you come off the ball and you're down and everyone just goes, 'All right, we're going to give up so many points and we're not going to score any, we're going to give up,'" center Joe Madsen said. "You can't have that attitude."
WVU (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) has only three touchdown drives the past two games and two were inconsequential fourth-quarter scores. The offense is 16-for-35 on third down, but just 2-for-5 in the first half of both games. The Mountaineers haven't been able to build and sustain drives, which has become a bigger problem as big plays have diminished.
There have been only two 20-yard plays the past two games and both were against Texas Tech.
"Great teams, champions, do a great job maintaining things when the momentum isn't on their side," quarterback Geno Smith said. "When things aren't going their way, they find ways to fight through that. Every game is not going to be as simple as you want it to be, even when everything is in your favor and guys are making incredible one-handed catches we had in the past and we have great blocking all around and the backs hit those big holes. Everyone has an off day."
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A YEAR AGO, one of WVU's bigger concerns during the season and then focuses throughout the offseason was depth on the offensive line. The Mountaineers used just five players for virtually all last season and didn't have many other bodies to use for even brief breaks.
This season, WVU is again using five players for a majority of its games. Left tackle Quinton Spain, left guard Josh Jenkins, Madsen, right guard Jeff Braun and right tackle Pat Eger have started six games together. There have been occasions where Jenkins and Braun have come out for injury and Nick Kindler has filled in when needed, but the starters have played 90.8 percent of the snaps.