Message of Energy, Enthusiasm Pays off for WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Message of Energy, Enthusiasm Pays off for WVU

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CINCINNATI -

West Virginia's sideline was lined from end to end, every person trying his or her best to get an unobstructed view as Cincinnati's field goal unit lined up to determine each team's fate.

Some locked arms, some just stood, hoping their wishes would be the ones to come true.

"I actually had my fingers crossed," says sophomore receiver Stedman Bailey. "I knew that it came down to that kick and if he missed it, we were going to come out with the win. That's what I was hoping for. That's what happened."

The pent up emotions erupted into relief and celebration as the kick sailed straight into the waiting hands of the Mountaineers' blockers and landed harmlessly on the turf. A team that had experienced so many negative plays on special teams had just come up with its own at such a perfect time.

The only question was who got the hand on it?

"We're in there talking about who blocked it and nobody has any idea who blocked it," says head coach Dana Holgorsen. "All of them [blocked it]. Even guys that weren't on the field."

He isn't kidding, either.

"In my head, I thought about it so hard that they were going to block it that I was like, ‘Okay, that was me. I did that,'" says center Joe Madsen, who wasn't on the field at the time. "I was literally almost in tears, I was yelling so hard."

As it turns out, Eain Smith is the player responsible. Smith and others on the unit say they saw a weakness in film study throughout the week and felt they could exploit it when it counted. The block was supposed to come from the middle with Ryan Nehlen leaping to stop the attempt, but Smith shot through a gap to get there instead.

"I just shot the gap," says Smith. "[I] got through the gap, put my hands up, it was a low trajectory kick, I hit it – game over."

Players, coaches and staff members rushed onto the field and celebrated as their loyal fans who made the trip to Cincinnati lost their minds in the stands. There was one way to describe the scene.

"One word: Pandemonium," says quarterback Geno Smith. "Everybody wanted to block that kick."

The truth is, the energy had been there from the moment the Mountaineers stepped into the stadium. Throughout the week, the message was loud and clear: WVU needed to step up its enthusiasm and get back to having fun on the field.

When Stedman Bailey got the scoring started with WVU in the first quarter, the players watching from the sideline made their excitement known. There would be no doubt this week that each Mountaineer had his head in the game and was rooting hard for his teammates, regardless of the situation.

In the second quarter, Julian Miller pounced on a Zach Collaros fumble for a touchdown and the reaction from those on the bench was exactly what Dana Holgorsen must have envisioned when he first brought up the subject of energy following the loss to Louisville.

Players rushed the field to celebrate with Miller and the others in on the play. One of the strength coaches joined a chest bumping affair well outside the box each team's personnel is supposed to stay within.

The officials could have called excessive celebration or a sideline warning (and the way the penalties were called on WVU in this one, that wouldn't have been outside the norm), but you get the feeling it would have been worth it to the Mountaineers to know that they had even shown too much energy in this one.

"We almost got a penalty from just rushing the sideline, but that energy is awesome," says Madsen. "[The players] jumping up and down on the sidelines, it just brings a different level to our game."

It's difficult to understand how WVU ever let it get to the point where the in-week message was to bring energy and excitement to a game, but that's what it was.

In a game full of highs and lows for the Mountaineers, that message was clearly well received as the sideline stayed interested and enthusiastic throughout the rollercoaster ride.

Ultimately, these players and coaches will tell you that is precisely why they were able to beat the Bearcats.

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