Cowboys offensive coordinator Todd Monken agreed, guessing, too, that West Virginia's first bye week probably played a factor as well.
“It looked like they simplified things,” Monken said. “And their guys responded.”
Now DeForest brings his scuffling defense into Stillwater, where stopping the Cowboys isn't his only issue. Many memories were etched during those 11 years at OSU, where DeForest's daughter Ashley is a freshman and so many Cowboys were either his former players or recruits or co-workers.
“That's a long time,” DeForest said. “Every day I was thankful to be there. It was a great experience. It was awesome.
“I don't want to say it's going to be hard, it's just going to be different. There will be different feelings.”
There are no hard feelings, especially after DeForest served the Cowboys so well, handling the special teams and coaching defensive backs and plucking players out of the Houston area.
“Joe gave his lifeblood to this program for several years,” said OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young, who worked alongside DeForest the previous three years. “Nobody worked harder than Joe did. He left because he thought it might enhance his chances of getting a head coaching job. That's the only reason he left. He didn't leave because he wanted to leave. He wants to be a head coach.”
The climb to head coach isn't always easy. And in this offense-crazed period of the college game, defensive coaches aren't exactly the flavor of the day. Yet chances can be fleeting, leaving assistant coaches to jump when they can — or risk regretting a missed opportunity.
“I'm happy that Joe got an opportunity to go somewhere and be a coordinator,” Monken said. “I'm for people reaching and achieving their dreams. That's what he wanted, an opportunity.”
So DeForest, armed with a three-year contract, works to reshape the Mountaineers defense and recast his future.
Next stop: Stillwater.
“I'm excited about coming back,” DeForest said. “I'm excited about the next game on the schedule. We have to win to become bowl eligible, just like OSU.
“It's going to be bittersweet. I just want to go back and play well and, obviously, win.”