Mountaineers Weather Storm, Overcome Elements - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Mountaineers Weather Storm, Overcome Elements

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PISCATAWAY, NJ -

The home team chose to wear all black Saturday, but Mother Nature intended it to be a whiteout.

West Virginia's football players needed only to look out the window of their team hotel to know they were in for some terrible conditions when they took the field.

"They were horrible. It was as bad of conditions as I've ever played in or coached in for my entire career," WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said after the game. "The first half, especially because the field was completely covered in ice and slush and we had a hard time hanging onto the ball."

Generally with snow-covered fields, the footing is bad and the ball is slipping out of hands to the point where any sort of scoring is tough to come by. Initially, that appeared to be the way this one was heading. By halftime, though, there had been a total of 52 points scored, the most in a half of any Mountaineer game this season.

"The first half, the first couple of drives were three-and-outs, but then everyone just started popping off big plays," says senior offensive lineman Don Barclay. "We definitely knew we were in for a big game."

"31 points, there's, I don't know, five inches of snow on the ground," recounts WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. "I think if anybody would have asked any of the coaches on either side of the field if they thought there'd be [52 points] in the first half… The game's a funny game and you never know what's going to happen."

The icy surface of the first half had plows constantly cruising around to move snow out of play and at times large piles of hard snow sat in the end zone, waiting to trip anyone who dared run a crossing route along the red beneath.

Holgorsen could see the problems a slick turf was causing, and his biggest concern was how it was impacting his offensive line in pass protection.
"It's hard to get footing," said Holgorsen. "The o-line was getting pushed back on skates and it just takes some time to run down field and the ball gets wet and it's just something you have to deal with."

It wasn't just the offensive line on skates, either. The entire team, at some point, felt the effects of snow and slush building up under their feet and rendering their cleats useless. Some of the players took action in the halftime locker room to come up with a solution to this problem.

"At first when we came out, we had molded cleats on and a lot of people think that molded would be better because it's not slippery," says senior linebacker Najee Goode. "We actually needed to change it to metal because they were deeper and they dig a little bit. A lot of guys changed at the half."

Others, like Keith Tandy, say the snow never became an issue with footing. Whether it was traction or numbness or simply being uncomfortable, the snow likely had some adverse effect on anyone in the stadium.

The general consensus is that one side of the ball would typically have an advantage in conditions like this, and the score may have indicated the same.

"I think whoever handles is better and also for the offense just because of the fact that we know where we're going and the defense is trying to stop us from getting there," says Bradley Starks.

Barclay sat in the postgame interview room answering questions and visibly shaking. In the course of one response, he could hardly move his mouth to form the words his brain wanted him to say because he was shivering that badly.

"Honestly, I'm freezing," he said. "I've never been a part of a whole game that just snowed down like this. I've never been a part of something like that in high school or here yet. It was pretty sweet to be part of something like that."

Of course, if it had been a loss, it probably wouldn't have been so sweet to spend it in the driving snow.

As it is, the Mountaineers can thaw out on the plane back to campus knowing they made it 17-straight over Rutgers in what may be the last game they play for the foreseeable future.

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