LAWRENCE, Kan. - With two games left in the regular season, there are no two ways to look at West Virginia's defense.
There are, in fact, too many ways to view those Mountaineers as they prepare play at Kansas at noon Saturday on Fox Sports Net (Root Sports).
"A lot of it's been hard to understand," defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. "Some things have been hard to explain how it happened."
WVU has seen two very different stretches by a defense that's rarely been able to play the same lineup. Through five games, the Mountaineers were 3-2 and had just beaten then-No. 11 Oklahoma State. It remains the only loss this season for the Cowboys, who managed 21 points in 19 possessions and have averaged 41.8 points in the five games since.
Since that day, the Mountaineers allowed at least 21 points in three consecutive possessions in games against Baylor (twice), Texas Tech, Kansas State and Texas.
On the day after the win against Oklahoma State, WVU ranked No. 37 in total defense, No. 36 in scoring defense, No. 67 in rushing defense and No. 31 in passing defense. That stood as unbelievable improvement from when the Mountaineers finished the 2012 season ranked Nos. 108, 114, 60 and 118.
It didn't stand for long, though. The Jayhawks will take their shots against the defense that's now No. 100 overall, No. 91 in scoring, No 78 against the run and No. 114 against the pass.
The Mountaineers haven't been full strength, though. They've started nine different lineups in 10 games. Sixteen contributing players have missed at least one game because of injury. Eight players have been lost for the season. Two were starters and six occurred during the season.
"It seems like all we do in staff meetings is talk about personnel and moving guys around," Patterson said. "I've never seem something like it before."
The Mountaineers are short on players and long on frustrations.
"For 12 series against Texas, they played as good as they possibly could have," Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Offensively, we put them in as bad of situations as you could with our ball security issues and problems at quarterback. With that said, they played phenomenal. They gave up (16) points in 21/2 quarters. If you want to be a great defense, that has to continue."
In the first dozen possessions, WVU's defense forced five punts and three three-and-outs and allowed only 143 yards. The 16 points came on three field goals and a touchdown and each was after a WVU turnover, none farther away from the end zone than the Mountaineers 27-yard line.
"It really boiled down to possessions 13, 14 and 15," Patterson said. "That was it. I'll never forget the shock when I looked up after the 15th possession and there's 30-something points on the board. 'How'd that happen?'"
It happened because Texas, which started 1-for-11 on third down, converted seven straight third down on three successive touchdown drives. The seventh was a 10-yard touchdown pass to perpetually open Jaxon Shipley for a 37-33 lead.
The Mountaineers (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) scored quickly and the defense supplied a three-and-out before WVU fell short on runs on second-and-1 and third-and-1 and had to punt. The Longhorns converted a third-and-1 and then a fourth-and-7 to set up a game-tying field goal.