WVU’s Biggest Motivation: Alabama or Last Year’s 4-8?
Matt Hauswirth, MORGANTOWN -
Motivation can be derived from a wide variety of occurrences, whether they are viewed in a positive or negative way.
The West Virginia football program has now had seven months to digest the events of the 2013 campaign. It was a season that saw the Mountaineers finish with an overall record of 4-8, its worst season since 2001, which saw WVU finish only a single game worse at 3-8.
That means over a decade has passed since the Mountaineers finished with a losing record, which has not gone over too well within the program.
So could that provide motivation?
“We feel as though we have so much to prove as a team,” senior safety K.J. Dillon passionately announced. “We’ve come so far together through this spring and so far this summer. I think it’s not just because we play Alabama the first game, but because we feel as though we have a lot to prove to this city and this state, and most importantly the entire nation.”
However, there could be a different form of motivation for the upcoming season.
In case you have not heard by now, the Mountaineers are preparing for possibly the biggest regular season game they have been a part of in quite some time.
West Virginia will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide, inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, during the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game, which will be televised nationally on ABC.
Monumental, towering, gigantic – any of those adjectives can be used to preface the Alabama football program, which has won three BCS National Championships since 2009.
As one may suspect, members of the WVU football team have already taken notice.
“It’s going to be awesome. I can only say it so much,” senior linebacker Jared Barber said. “It’s just going to be cool. I think it’s the first game of the year. We really get to test how hard we’ve worked this summer and how hard we worked in the winter. We do get to play against the best team. So we’re just going to go out there and smack them in the mouth a little bit, and show everybody that West Virginia is back for sure.”
“Oh man, I see a lot of excitement,” senior cornerback Ishmael Banks said with elation. “This is a chance to play on a big stage and prove ourselves in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game. How much bigger does it get? We’re playing Alabama. They’ve won three national championships [recently]. You don’t get any better to start the season off than that.”
The opportunity to play against a program such as Alabama is motivation in itself. But what could also serve as a catalyst to even more motivation is the betting line that has already surfaced thanks to the sports bookies in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Crimson Tide will open as 24-point favorites over the Mountaineers. It certainly adds fuel to the fire. But, of course, the players don’t pay any attention to that.
“[I think] being 4-8,” senior running back Dreamius Smith said, referring to which will be the bigger motivation. “We’re coming in with a chip on our shoulder this year. I mean, we know we’ve got a lot to prove. That is a big game, but we’re going to take it day-by-day, prepare for it and go out there and play our hardest that game.”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with Alabama,” senior wide receiver Kevin White articulated. “I feel like we had the pieces to the puzzle last year, but we just couldn’t put it together. It was an embarrassment. So we’re trying to do everything we can so it doesn’t happen again.”
However sophomore cornerback Daryl Worley most likely said it best, referring to the Mountaineers’ big test against the Crimson Tide.
“They’re a great opponent. They have earned their respect from winning as many games as they have and as many championships as they have. They’ve definitely made a big name for themselves,” Worley stated. “But at the end of the day, like we have all talked about within our team, they’re just another human being. They put their pants on one leg at a time just like we do. So we’re going to take them on and we’re going to treat them as any other opponent. We’re going to prepare the same and we’re just going to go out there, strap our pads on and do the best we can do – try to come out with the win.”
There’s no doubt that Alabama is a motivator in itself. But over the years, the West Virginia football program has built itself on pride and toughness. Last year’s record of 4-8 forced many WVU fans to question both of those qualities, which is something that the players truly want to correct in time for the upcoming season.
“I think everybody has a good understanding now that we need to get back to what this place is built on,” Barber proclaimed. “[It’s built on] hard work and blue collar people – just coming to work everyday. I think we’re finally getting the grasp of what we need to do and how we need to do things. So I think everybody is excited to get that mentality back here.”
Motivation has never arrived in an easier form than this year for the Mountaineers. Losing records do not occur too often in Morgantown, which is why last season’s troubles will certainly trump a single game, even if the opponent is the caliber of Alabama.