Julian Miller is far from naive.
West Virginia's senior defensive tackle said Saturday the Mountaineers must look in the mirror and figure out how to play a complete game to have any chance of a Big East Conference title.
He knows the deck is stacked against the Mountaineers.
"We need to put it together all four quarters. I think that's what's haunted us these past couple games," Miller said. "These next three games we're going to have to play four quarters full throttle. ... We can talk the talk. We need to start walking the walk."
- Game: Cincinnati (7-1, 3-0 Big East) vs. West Virginia (6-3, 2-2)
- When: Noon Saturday.
- Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati.
- TV: WTAE.
Players were more than subdued after being upset by Louisville, 38-35. The loss significantly hamstrung the Mountaineers long-stated bid to win the Big East.
The race leader is first-place Cincinnati, the Mountaineers' road opponent Saturday at noon. The Bearcats are undefeated in conference play at 3-0, and are 7-1 overall. Surging Louisville (3-1) moved into second place with the win, and Rutgers (3-2) holds down third.
West Virginia is in a three-way tie for fourth place with a 2-2 Big East record.
It is a record that seemed unfathomable a month ago, when the team's offense was flying high and seemed to be enough to counter any deficiencies in a young defense.
Now a different path has been forged following a rout by Syracuse Oct. 21, a close win at Rutgers a week later, then Saturday's mistake-filled loss in a game that seemed within reach.
Receiver Stedman Bailey said it won't be an easy loss to forget.
"I think it'll be very tough, the simple fact we feel like this one slipped away from us," he said. "You can't do anything about it. It's in the books. We've got to move forward and try and win the rest of our games."
The offense outgained the Cardinals, 533-351, but problems continued to plague special teams, offense and defense.
A blocked field goal return led to a 10-point lead for Louisville 12 seconds into the fourth quarter. West Virginia climbed back in the game with a touchdown but the defense couldn't get a stop. The Mountaineers gave up a 66-yard touchdown drive to the Cardinals that included three third-down conversions, one fourth-down conversion, and took 7:03 off the clock.
"When we have chances to put our foot on their throats or put the game out of reach, we haven't done it so far and that's extremely frustrating," quarterback Geno Smith said. "Especially for coach Holgorsen. He expects so much out of us and he knows what we can do and what we're capable of."
Linebacker Najee Goode said he expected the loss to sink in on Sunday, the day players review film.
"It really hits when you see what you did wrong, see plays you could've made," he said. "We played good in certain parts of the game. Then when you mess up and you see that you mess up and a great championship team [doesn't] mess up like that."
Goode admitted he has already thought back to last year when a 5-2 Big East record was enough to tie for the league championship.
"The best thing we can do is come back and play hard [and] win these last three games," he said. "Last year we tied for the Big East championship 5-2, [so we're] going to try and do something this year."
NOTE -- Holgorsen said wide receiver Brad Starks will be out of the lineup indefinitely after an injury suffered vs. Louisville.