While Joseph disagrees with the cause and effect of that assesment, he isn't ducking responsibility for the fact that the Mountaineer football team hasn't finished well over the past two seasons. Leads have repeatedly slipped away in fourth quarters, and end of season collapses have marked both the 2012 and 2013 campaigns.
Those wishing to lay the blame on Joseph and his strength and conditioning program fail to account for the 10-3 season in 2011, when the Mountaineers rallied down the stretch to win its final three games of the season, then blew out Clemson in the Orange Bowl. The same basics and fundamental approach was in place three years ago, but that doesn't matter to those looking for a scapegoat. While Joseph could easily point to those successes, he instead shoulders the blame and describes the way in which the team has approached the offseason.
"Last season we were not happy with our record, and with our finish," the straight-talking Joseph noted. "We left several games on the table that we should have won. We wanted to work on our mentality, and work on finishing. We wanted to work on trusting each other and trusting the team. Finishing was our motto over the winter, and everything we did was geared toward that. Mentality was our number one emphasis. We want to continue to have kids improve physically, of course, but the mental approach in working hard and finishing every drill, every workout strong was our key."
"I will always evaluate [problems] and take blame for it. We have to improve on our mentality, finish strong and build confidence. --Mike Joseph
There was only one game in which Joseph thought West Virginia was physically outmatched, and in that contest the issue wasn't strength or stamina, but simply speed. However, he also saw other issues that may have contributed to WVU's fade late in many games.
"I think any time you have mental issues, whether you are unsure, or nervous, or have anxiety, it will affect you physically," Joseph explained. "I think we had some younger guys in there, and maybe some of those guys weren't ready [physically]. But the only game last year I would say that we didn't physically match up in was Baylor But in all the other games I think we were physically as strong if not stronger. We didn't get tired. I think it was mental miscues, and maybe mental toughness."
In identifying items to be addressed, Joseph showed leadership in taking responsibility for them, and developing a plan for fixing them. In that manner, he set down the first example of finishing to the team -- shoring up weaknesses and following the plan.
"I will always evaluate that and take blame for it," Joseph said of last year's problems. "We have to improve on our mentality, finish strong and build confidence. Then those things are not an issue. We want out guys to be physically more dominant and our skill guys faster, and get to the point where we are not outmatched."
Joseph and his staff, as always, also evaluated the strength and conditioning program in terms of injury prevention. He and his staff are always on the lookout for increases in certain types of injuries, and are constantly tweaking the program to help prevent them. In looking at last year's results, they found an overall increase in the total number of injuries, but nothing showing a pattern where one type of injury stood out. In fact, it was more of a series of anomalies.
"It was weird injuries. There was nothing where we had one bad area of injuries," he explained. "For some young guys, maybe it was a lack of preparedness, but some of the older guys it was really some freak injuries, things that haven't happened in 20 years. But we are always going to try to improve our preparedness and maximize our injury resiliency. I think we had a good offseason with that. We came out of spring ball with no big injuries or issues. We are recovering well, and with another good summer we should be ready to go."
That summer session is underway now, as many players reported back to Morgantown for the beginning of the summer workout program on May 18. There, in addition to a few new drills, they'll find an extension of the winter season, which was dominated by that one word.