"We needed the rest," admitted Sanders. "Everyone was tired after going through fall camp and then four weeks of the schedule. That's seven weeks of football, and it kind of took a toll on the team. We'll be ready to play on Saturday. We need to do the little things. With the time off, the defense worked on tackling and the offense worked on the plays and things like the hurry-up offense."
The effects of a loss can be both good and bad. A defeat can serve to refocus on issues to be corrected, but it can't be dwelled on to the point where it affects play in the subsequent game. That's a line that coaches and players have to draw when reviewing mistakes from a defeat and preparing for an upcoming game. The situation can be made worse with extra time to mull over a loss, as WVU had the last fortnight.
As a senior leader, it's up to Sanders to make sure that line is approached, but not crossed. Before he did that with his teammates, he had to address it himself. He admitted that last Saturday was a difficult time to be at home watching other teams competing on the football field.
"It's hard because like I was at home on Saturday," said Sanders. "I was laying down, watching T.V. and watching other teams. It had me mad because when you're watching ESPN they always roll through the top 25 teams and it was weird not seeing us on the top 25. That made me mad that we didn't grasp that win that we had a chance to win."
Not only did the loss to the Tigers knock the Mountaineers out of the Top 25, but it also cost them an injury to star senior running back Noel Devine who suffered a bone bruise to his toe. While it is assumed that Devine will be ready to play against UNLV on Saturday, the Mountaineers are making sure that they have plenty of contingency plans. A former running back, he hasn't ruled out the option of returning to his former position if asked.
"They don't really talk about it because they know that I'm always in the running back room and that I'm prepared if I'm needed to go back there" said Sanders. "Coach Beatty talks to everyone in the room and I've got it down. I'm prepared if that were to happen."
However, it seems more likely that the Mountaineer coaches would call upon standout freshman running back Trey Johnson to fill Devine's shoes if his injured toe continues to be a problem. Although he has seen limited touches in games thus far, the freshman has been impressing coaches and players alike in practice. He had three carries for seven yards in the opener against Coastal Carolina, but hasn't seen the ball since,
"[Johnson] been outstanding so far," said Sanders. "Knowing that you're behind someone like Noel, you're watching from the sidelines and picking things up. Every time that Trey has a chance, he's made the best of it. He's making plays and that's why his name is coming out of the coach's mouth."
Many people believe that you learn more from a loss than a victory, and while WVU doesn't want to test that theory, the Mountaineers do want to be able to take everything they can from the season's first setback. And while some teams would be looking past a team like UNLV with their 1-4 record and looking forward to the beginning of Big East play against USF on October 14th, WVU is determined to take it one game at a time. That's been the mantra of head coach Bill Stewart this week, and Sanders echoed it, perhaps quite knowingly.
"Some people would look past UNLV but they have played two top 25 teams that gave them trouble," said Sanders. "I know they're not going to just come in here and lay down because we put our helmets on. You should never look past your opponent."