The message this week in the Puskar Center is fairly obvious: show better body language in practice and during the game on the sidelines or be left back.
"Really good teams with good schemes and tremendous leaders, from coaches on down, are the teams that can handle that and have enough to get up for it and find ways to win. That takes three sides of the ball, and it takes a whole bunch of people that are in for the same reasons," Holgorsen said on Tuesday. "We've been talking about that with the team. Everyone needs to be in this thing together. We may go to Cincinnati with 55 guys that want to play together and are going to want to win the game together."
Players have gotten the message this week. They know what it will take to please Holgorsen this week.
The problem is this: Why is there an issue with intensity and energy?
There are 12 games (now 13 with a bowl game) each year, and these players work about 50 weeks per year in an attempt to prepare for those 13 days.
How can this happen? How can another player or team want it more than West Virginia?
"You can get into a mental stage where you have school, it's the ninth week of the season and you just want to get through with this practice," said center Joey Madsen. "You've got to fight through that stuff and be mentally tough."
Linebacker Doug Rigg said: "For us, when a big play happens, instead of getting excited we just expect it to happen … We need to start to start congratulating each other a little bit more."
That word "expect" is interesting to me. After talking with a slew of players on Tuesday, it was thrown around a lot.
There were expectations that WVU would be the best in the Big East. There were expectations that the Mountaineers had the most talent. With that top-dog mentality, is it possible to get complacent?
The goals are still attainable – somehow. Firstly, WVU – 2-2 in the Big East – would have to win out – anything less than that and it will be eliminated from that conversation. That would mean wins over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, which would give West Virginia tiebreakers over those two teams.
The Mountaineers would have to defeat Cincinnati – who is 3-0 in the Big East – on Saturday, and the Bearcats would need to lose at least one of its following three games (at Rutgers, at Syracuse and vs. Connecticut) for WVU to hold a tiebreaker lead in the Big East standings.
Louisville – who is 3-1 in conference play – also has a tiebreaker over WVU because of the win on Saturday over the Mountaineers. The Cardinals would have to lose two of their final three games (vs. Pittsburgh, at Connecticut and at South Florida) to allow West Virginia to jump over top of the Cardinals.
The Mountaineers would have to beat Pitt – 2-2 in Big East play – to gain a tiebreaker over the Panthers, as well. West Virginia holds head-to-head wins over the other two-loss conference teams – Rutgers and Connecticut.
It's desperate times at WVU, no different than it was a year ago.
How this team responds against the Bearcats on Saturday will mean everything. With so much focus on body language and energy, if the Mountaineers don't come out and play and enthused four quarters, WVU might as well pack its bags for Birmingham, Ala., or the like come bowl season.
That would be a shame for the Big East's most talented team.
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