Mentality: "Ready Whenever"

Benefits and detriments of West Virginia's incredibly early open date were a source of contrasting opinions for the offense and defense. Yet one mindset emerged.

Almost to a man, the offensive coaches and players said they would rather have played last weekend. Head coach Dana Holgorsen went as far as saying the Air Raid attack was ready a week before the season started. And even with another game film in the can, the 69-34 slaying didn't reveal much need to change many things. On the opposite side of the ball, players and staff thoughts were more mixed. Newcomers had a week to study live game tape, coaches had a week to break down individuals and get added reps sans the pressure of opponent preparation. But the date was simply so … early.

"I hate the fact that we had an open week, where we couldn't build (on the first game) but it did help us better understand tempo and some of the other things," defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said.

What DeForest, and defensive line coach Erik Slaughter, among others, would have liked was to play about three games – the nonconference portion of the schedule – and have the idle week heading into the Big 12 opener with Baylor.

"It was good, but you really want your open week a little later," Slaughter said. "We assessed some fundamentals. Our guys have been in a game now and seen what it's like. It was good for us. We got a lot of good work in. You have goals to improve and usually you see improvement between the first and second game. We have young guys, and it's good to have two weeks to do that."

Perhaps. But even with that, one idea stood out in player and coach comments.

"With our mentality," quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said, "we are ready whenever."

"We just go play," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said.

The sentiment was echoed from freshman free safety Karl Joseph to senior center Joe Madsen. Name the time and date. Let's play.

"The off week, it doesn't matter to me," Joseph said. "We prepare every week like we have a game. We had a good week of practice and now we're in game week. This is about doing our job, staying focused and doing what I have to do on the field and playing hard." Said Madsen: "We pushed through, we got better. I would rather have played. I'm tired of banging heads with the same guys."

West Virginia was able to utilize the week to gain addition drill time for younger players and reserves. The Mountaineers held a scrimmage last Thursday, getting third-string quarterback Ford Childress live snaps against the defense.

"He got a good opportunity to play ball with the young guys," Spavital said. "That's how our offense is, and that's how our quarterbacks get the most experience, just going out there and play. We got about 30 live snaps in, and that was good. It was good to get out there and run and rep and play football. The more you play, the better you'll be. Besides that, we are healthy. We're healthy and we ran pretty well. Off weeks are always a little more lethargic because the kids don't want to be out there practicing as much.

"You had all that excitement for the first game, then there's a let down with the off week. Now, we get the kids back up in game mode. We had 29 practices before the first game. Now we had seven before the second game. We just want to go play."

The other aspect players are driving is that significant upsets can happen, the prime example from last weekend being UL-Monroe's overtime defeat of then-No. 8 Arkansas. West Virginia's ranking this week as it prepares for No. 6 (FCS) foe James Madison? No. 8.

"(Upsets) can happen to anybody in the country, that that let's us know that," receiver Stedman Bailey said. "We had a lot of time to recuperate and get our legs back. We got some good work in, working plays we need to in order to prepare."

Note: West Virginia didn't change much offensively over the last week, preferring instead to continue to rep and hone its plays. But as the season progresses – again, there's that Baylor game looming – look for minute play tweaks that serve to alter looks and, at times, ball distribution to keep opponents honest.

"That's the great thing about this offense," running backs coach Robert Gillespie said. "We can sit in a room, and we have base plays we run, but every once in a while, there is a new wrinkle we can add to a play that doesn't really change the foundation of the play. That's the thing about coaching in this offense, and that's the thing that keeps the kids on-edge, because they know at any time, we can add a twist and now they become the main guy on this play. We don't do it much, but as the season goes on, to keep it fresh with the kids and just to keep opponents off balance we can always add things to it."


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