WVU Turns Doubters to Believers... Again - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Turns Doubters to Believers... Again

MIAMI, Fla. -

A peculiar thing happened on those beaches of South Florida this past week.

Somewhere in all the hype surrounding the game, all the injury concerns and doubt shrouding the Mountaineers' program, West Virginia came out and played out of its mind.

After questions about the injuries and player dismissals or a high-powered offense in Clemson or even the distractions of a glamorous hotel and celebrity sightings, it seems Dana Holgorsen's team was actually as relaxed and focused as it made itself appear to be.

People wanted to know why Dabo Swinney brought the troops to the bowl site two days before Holgorsen and to whom that move would create an advantage.

Looks like WVU got that one.

Clemson's head coach said in his final press conference that his roster was as healthy as its been all season, while WVU's was perhaps the least healthy it had been.

Yet the Mountaineers dominated.

Both team's offenses were hyped as the only units worth watching in a game that featured high-powered passing attacks and some on West Virginia's defense took issue with that notion.

And then they stifled Clemson to prove their point.

As the players began writing signs on unused white boards – the game easily in hand by this point – there was a strikingly familiar message that Stedman Bailey took upon himself to hold high.

"83% wrong again!!" it read, a reference to an ESPN.com poll in which that percentage of the nation voted that it believed the Tigers would prevail.

"Last time I checked, 83 minus 100 was 17, baby. And 17 percent right was in that little blue state we call West Virginia. And all our fans came out here and supported us and we supported them and we won," senior linebacker Najee Goode said after the game.

One group of people that apparently no longer doubted West Virginia was the Clemson faithful. Many of the fans began heading to the exits, disgusted by what they had seen, when the Mountaineers pulled ahead 63-20 with nine minutes left in the third quarter.

The support for the Tigers had dwindled, and with it, the ACC champion had lost all confidence in itself. Sometimes you can look at a team and see that it has given up, but according to players on WVU's defense, Clemson took it one step further.

"There was like linemen out there talking about, ‘Good job, man, stop going so hard. Y'all got it.' I was like, all right," says senior cornerback Keith Tandy. "I never heard anything like that and they just made us want to go harder and keep making plays."

To hear the opposition so readily drop its sword and ask for mercy is not what Tandy and his teammates could have expected to hear coming into a BCS bowl game.

It's clear the athletes on Clemson's side of the ball were ready to join the 17 percent of the nation that felt Holgorsen and company had something to offer.

They say their mentality the entire 60 minutes was to play like they were losing to maintain some sense of hunger.

Anybody on that sideline would have been satisfied with a 49-20 victory. Instead, that's the advantage they held at the half.

"Watching film, we knew they had some tendencies, they were going to tip some things off, but we never thought it'd be anything like this," says Tandy.

Bowl records fell and so too did the doubt that West Virginia can't play with the big dogs. The team continues to prove it on the biggest stages and as much as the players may take offense to the lack of confidence, they also thrive on it.

"We play better with our back against the wall," says senior safety Eain Smith. "When everybody thinks we're not going to do it, that's when we do it. You know, West Virginia, we prove a lot of people wrong. My freshman year in the Fiesta Bowl and right here in the Orange Bowl."

The Mountaineers are 3-0 in BCS bowl games, winning more than the entire Atlantic Coast has as a conference. They've taken down teams from the SEC, the Big 12 and now the ACC.

If they continue to be doubted, they just may have time to beat up on your conference, too.


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