Message of Adversity Pays off in WVU Win - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Message of Adversity Pays off in WVU Win


At some point this year, the WVU football staff will begin passing out shirts with some message about adversity. It's a theme nearly every week in some aspect and a win over Rutgers was no different.

A team the Mountaineers had beaten in each of their previous 16 meetings was giving West Virginia fits in a snowy first half, enough to have a 10-point lead heading into the locker room.

But that seems to be where WVU has been at its finest this season. There have been multiple times in the first eight games of the Dana Holgorsen era that his team has trailed at the half only to come out looking like a completely different operation.

"We've been talking about adversity all week," Holgorsen said after the game. "Adversity happens every game that you ever play in and we got challenge. At halftime, it was a very challenging situation for coaches and players and I was proud about how we went out and on all three sides, played harder than they did."

West Virginia was able to turn the tide of the game with a 20-0 second half. After giving up a season-high 31 points in one half, the defense recorded a shutout for the remainder of the game.

At some point in the first half, defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel had to have been thinking "not again." The poor performance against Syracuse's offense looked to be carrying over to the Scarlet Knights.

Now, there's confidence going forward because of the way they closed the game out.

"As a defense, it gives us confidence, but we knew we could always do that, it's just playing to that ability that we know we can," says senior safety Eain Smith. "We did that in the second half, showed everybody we can, it's just progressing from here."

Each team had one turnover in the first half. In the second, Rutgers had three while the Mountaineers had none.

So what's this magical halftime routine Holgorsen and his staff have in place to reverse the team's fortune? Well, on Saturday at least, it was nothing. According to the players, it wasn't the coaches who changed their attitude during intermission – it was one of their peers.

"The coaches didn't even really say nothing," says WVU receiver Tavon Austin. "It was Brantwon [Bowser]. Brantwon came in and he was talking to us, so after that speech he gave, it was just everybody had a whole different feeling."

Bowser is seen as a senior leader on the team, one who's able to lead vocally while others may choose to do it simply by example. He isn't one to yell and scream, but he delivered a sound message to his teammates to keep them composed and focused for the job they had left to do.

"It was very inspirational what he said and I think it definitely caught the eye and the ears of a lot of guys on the team and helped us come out in the second half the way we did," says defensive lineman Julian Miller.

The players were able to feed off of Bowser's words to gain the spark they needed running out of the locker room. From that point on, they were feeding off each other.

Trailing three points with just over 11 minutes remaining, Rutgers lined up to kick a field goal and make it a six-point game. But, tricky as head coach Greg Schiano can be, the Scarlet Knights faked the try and instead threw to the end zone. WVU's Darwin Cook broke up the pass and suddenly the offense needed just a three to tie rather than seven or more.

"It gave us a boost of energy," says senior receiver Bradley Starks. "Caught us off guard, but it gave us a boost of energy and it helped us go down there and score."

So that's what the offense did. It marched 89 yards down the field and capped off the drive with a fourth down play that was a called pass and instead became a Geno Smith run for the lead. From there, the Mountaineers held off the Knights and cruised to a victory.

But on each side of the ball, the players were able to take the other's success and use it as a catalyst for their own unit.

"This is a very family-oriented team," says Miller. "I think that as the season goes on, we're becoming closer and closer as brothers more so than teammates."

It would certainly be nice for WVU if it could simply avoid adversity from this point forward and have every half of every game be like the second against Rutgers. But knowing how well they can handle it if it does come has this team feeling like it is never out of any game.

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