They have given up kickoff returns for touchdowns, punt returns for touchdowns. Had shanked punts and a blocked field goal, too.
So it may have come as a shock to West Virginia fans on Saturday afternoon when the Mountaineers' special teams came through with a game-saving play. Eain Smith threw his big hand up in the air and blocked the game-tying 31-yard field goal against Cincinnati, allowing West Virginia to survive with a 24-21 win and stay alive in the Big East race.
It was the first blocked field goal for West Virginia since 2004, but more importantly it gave the special-teams unit some positive headlines for once. Because one of the big laments this season has been the way West Virginia has played in this department. Twice this season, the Mountaineers gave up momentum-shifting kickoff returns for touchdowns -- to LSU and Syracuse.
Then in a loss to Louisville, the Cardinals returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown, turning the tide in their favor.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen had a different view of his special teams, though.
"Only a few teams in the country are able to dominate special teams,” Holgorsen said. “Each and every game is a challenge special-teams wise. The fact that we've had a few problems with it is probably similar to a few other teams. If you take all areas of it, there’s been some glitches, but I don't think that's any different from other teams across the country.”
Playing special teams is a lot like being an offensive lineman. You never get headlines for doing your job; but allow a sack, get a holding penalty, allow a kickoff return for a touchdown and boom -- spotlight on. But at least on special teams, a spectacular play gets noticed, and maybe even overshadows every other play in the game. Good or bad.