WVU Gets Small Test in Adversity - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Gets Small Test in Adversity


Clockwork is a term that could describe the manner with which West Virginia's offense operated to open Saturday's game against James Madison.

Racing out the first 28 points, turning each of their first four drives into touchdowns, the Mountaineers made it clear which team held a spot in the top 10 of the FBS and which did the same in a lower division.

But the sailing wasn't always so smooth, and with stronger opponents waiting, a lesson was learned in the action at FedEx Field.

It began late in the second quarter.

The energy momentarily moved to the east sideline with fans in purple applauding loudly in a manner that suggested sarcasm. West Virginia's offense, for the first time in the game, would not cross the goal line on the back end of its drive.

A whiffed punt and a field goal off the post later and those cheers lost the sarcasm. It was still a 25-point game, there was no real reason for concern along the Mountaineers' bench, but there was the smallest sense of a shift in momentum.

West Virginia's fans were no longer into the action on the field. Four touchdowns, an insurmountable lead, and the familiar sound of that WVU first down chant emptied from the stands.

When James Madison opened the second half with a defensive stand before marching right down the field to the 3-yard-line, Dana Holgorsen realized his team was facing adversity for the first time in the 2012 season.

"I think Coach Holgorsen does a great job of emphasizing that when adversity hits, we've got to find a way to push through it," running back Shawne Alston said after the game. "They put together a couple good drives, the defense was able to hold."

Those two straight goal line stands for the WVU defense pushed the pendulum of momentum back in the Mountaineers' direction.

Watching from the sideline, West Virginia's offense was itching to get back on the field and score at will as it had earlier in the game.

"They've got a mentality where they just want to go down, they want to score every time they've got the ball," quarterback coach Jake Spavital said.

That is what happened the next time they got it. It took eight plays, 70 yards and just under three minutes to put the team back on track.

"Now we know who's going to step up and who's not going to step up and our adjustments happen a lot quicker and it doesn't take a couple of drives to get over adversity," Spavital said. "We can get to the sideline, gather our thoughts and just get out there and execute."

WVU grew quite familiar with adversity last season, so much so that it became a battle cry of sorts as the team entered the stretch run to secure a league title. The coaching staff asked the players to become cheerleaders for each other, pushing their teammates to perform on the field.

That is precisely what Alston says happened on Saturday.

"It's huge to be on the sideline and be able to support the people that are on the field. We have to build our own energy on the field," Alston said. "When you're at home, you have 60,000 fans, most of them cheering for you, it's easy then."

Spavital notes that after WVU's goal line stand, Smith was out in the middle of the celebration. He knows the importance of taking advantage of every single possession, and the more his defense can give him, the more chances he has at putting up numbers like he did against the Dukes.

"Nothing fazes the kid," says Spavital. "He never gets too high, never gets too low. He just loves playing the game."

The players on the field feel confident when they see the man under center, but that confidence spreads. It infiltrates the locker room and stays with the Mountaineers on the field.

Confidence can get a team back in it, even when it seems that the game has begun to slip away.

Nothing about Saturday's results suggest that the game was ever slipping from WVU, but the moments in which JMU took it to the Mountaineers, they responded. Regardless of the team on the other side of the line of scrimmage, that means something.

It is a lesson that will be utilized later in the season. Saturday's was a run through.

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