Overcoming Opponent, Elements

West Virginia director of strength and conditioning Mike Joseph was pleased with the Mountaineers' physicality and ability to overcome both the opponent and elements in Saturday's 69-34 win.

While the heat wasn't extreme, the humidity hovered between 85 to 90 percent and the noon kick time created high on-field temperatures - prime cramping conditions. But that wasn't a major issue, according to Joseph, and by all accounts WVU held up well in every conditioning phase.

"Our strength level was good, our physical-ness was good," Joseph said. "Game one, just like with offense and defense, we want to improve. We want to keep being more physical, keep being more aggressive at all times."

In his 15th year as a strength and conditioning coach and his seventh year as the head strength coach at West Virginia, Joseph noted that having an older, more experience offensive line helped reduce the wear and tear on other players. He was also impressed with the play of the freshmen on defense, and didn't notice any conditioning issues with them despite many having only a few months, if that long, in the collegiate strength program.

West Virginia's offensive line, for example, dominated Marshall, with quarterback Geno Smith having significant time and space in which to operate. Smith often had upwards of five-plus seconds to throw, and even turned one busted play into a touchdown because of excellent blocking. The Heisman hopeful's added weight helped him completed 32 of 36 passes, with at least two intentional throwaways, for 323 yards and four touchdowns. He was not sacked.

Tavon Austin appeared as sharp as ever, maintaining his burst and agility, and turning a misdirection end around for a 76-yard gain. Stedman Bailey made one leaping, back-bending catch to open the game. And running back Shawne Alston continually busted through the Herd defense for a career-high 123 yards and two scores with a 7.7-yard average. The senior was by far the toughest, most physical player on the field and showed his strength and agility on multiple runs.

The defense, in a vanilla set and looks, flew around well, and held up adequately for playing 101 snaps. Its youth was showcased some, but WVU didn't give up many big plays, and its strength and conditioning appeared fine.

"I think we did all right. We have mature offensive lineman, and even our defensive guys that haven't played a lot did well," said Joseph, who broke up a brief scuffle between the teams in pregame. "Obviously, it was humid. That played a little bit of a role with the guys cramping a bit, but overall I think our conditioning and performance went well and the guys played well throughout the game."

The Mountaineers will lift and run Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday this week, which is a typical schedule. But because of the open date, there will be a bit more emphasis on strength and conditioning without an opponent for which to prepare. West Virginia will then have Friday and Saturday off, then ramp up preparations for the Sept. 15 game against James Madison near Washington, D.C.

"There will be a little bit more work this week, but even in season we go after it so we maintain our strength and, if anything, get stronger through the season, hopefully," Joseph said. "Come December, that makes a difference. We just want to keep them active, keep them healthy and ready to go."

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