Mountaineers Lack Excitement, Support on Game Day - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Mountaineers Lack Excitement, Support on Game Day

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MORGANTOWN -

If there is any hope for the WVU football team to win out its final three games of the season, the players, coaches and staff all must work together to do so.

This may sound like a simple plan moving forward, but in speaking with members of the Mountaineers squad Tuesday evening, it is clear that support for each other has been an issue.

One of the biggest messages in team meetings and on the practice field this week has been for the offense to outwardly show excitement toward the defense and for the defense to do the same toward the offense.

"If you look at Louisville, they were very excited when something happened. You see their blocked field goal, people are sprinting down the sideline for them," says sophomore linebacker Doug Rigg. "With us, a good play happens, it seems like instead of getting excited for it, we kind of expect it to happen so we're just like, ‘Okay, let's go to the next side of the ball.' We need to start showing more excitement toward the other."

There have been plenty of reasons for the Mountaineers to jump up and support each other this season with big plays on each side of the ball, but the energy is lacking and the coaching staff has noticed.

The coaching staff may even be a part of the reason why some of that excitement is lacking, as Darwin Cook says the main instances in which he won't show support to the offense are when he's getting coached up on the sideline.

It's unlikely that the in-game instruction will cease in order to add more cheerleaders to the bench area, but West Virginia is looking to make a conscious effort to contribute more energy from its side of the field.

"In the Rutgers game when we were playing together, it showed all our energy and we came back," says junior safety Darwin Cook. "We were fighting for the offense, they were fighting for the defense. We stopped them, they scored; they scored, we stopped them and we played good as a team."

This same problem reared its head a year ago when the Mountaineer defense was playing at a much higher success level than the offense.

"We had a great defense and we'd get a lot of stops and we'd be frustrated at the offense and there was a point where it was kind of like, ‘We're doing our job, why aren't you doing yours?'" Rigg admits. "The coaches did a great job of stepping in and saying, ‘These are your brothers, you'll always remember them for the rest of your life.' It was only really a game or two were people felt a divide."

The players ensure us there is no divide among teammates. In practice, they get after each other and do what it takes to get better and show all the excitement they can muster, but there's something different on game day.

They live together, go to class together and do all the things great friends would do, it just somehow got to the point where they didn't show as much support as they could when it counted. Some of them didn't even notice it, and others still can't fully comprehend how it happened.

"I'm not really sure what it was, but you could definitely tell that it was missing from the beginning of the [Louisville] game," says senior cornerback Keith Tandy. "You're out there and people were talking about how they're bored just being out there, so we've just got to make sure we get that energy back and make sure we're flying around, congratulating each other."

Bored during a football game seems impossible if you're one of the athletes on the field, even if you are relegated to the sideline at that time. There's too much mental and physical investment throughout the week to not get excited once the payoff comes around.

Still, this is an issue that existed a few years back for WVU, and then-head coach Rich Rodriguez chose to fix it by forcing his players to celebrate.

After each practice's stretch period, he would have every player on the field pick a partner and give him a chest bump. Even Rodriguez got in on the action. Whenever the offense would score, he wanted the same thing.

Not that chest bumps aren't common across the nation, but there was a time when WVU seemed to do them far more than any other team. To some extent, the Mountaineers still carry on this tradition.

But rather than chest bumping after the game Saturday, there was a locker room full of distraught players who couldn't comprehend how the season had gotten away from them. Shouting could be heard echoing from where the team had just met to discuss the outcome and where they would go from there.

"It was just a little bickering back and forth," says offensive lineman Joe Madsen. "You're frustrated after the game and we're a big family over here, so it was one of those things where someone got mad, upset and you've got to settle them down and get back on track."

The work to get everyone on the same track and to a point where they support each other outwardly began in that locker room with the message that the season is not yet lost, though it is certainly slipping away.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen has told his players that he will only travel the ones who show the right energy and focus and attitude throughout the week. The players agree with that notion and are hopeful that all of their teammates will respond to the call.

"We've got the greatest guys out there, I think, in the Big East," says Madsen. "I think we can come out there and we can win every game, but we've just got to give more effort and finish."

If that can happen, each side of the ball should have plenty to get excited about on game day.

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