No Excuses

Phil Elmassian is not a coach who looks for excuses, even when a perfectly valid one is available.

Asked to comment on WVU's stellar defensive performance against Syracuse, the coach's first reaction was "we didn't get it done in the fourth quarter."

"We probably played as well as we have today. The kids did a great job and got good penetration. We managed to prevent the long runs today. The kids tackled well, but the bottom line is we lost the game. We didn't play well enough in the fourth quarter to get the win."

Of course, there were plenty of reasons to point to the fourth quarter drop-off. The Mountaineer defense was on the field for more than 33 minutes. Defensive stalwarts Angel Estrada, Grant Wiley, Tim Love and Kevin Freeman spent all or part of the fourth quarter sidelined with various injuries. The defense had to be a bit disheartened, too, as the offense had failed to mount any scoring threats despite excellent field position throughout the third quarter. None of that matters to Elmassian, who refuses to look for excuses.

"We knew we needed to create some turnovers in the second half. That's what you've got to do. I think our effort was good enough to win, but I don't think our execution was, especially in the fourth quarter. That's a time where we had to go out and hold them to a field goal. We said we needed to play great red zone defense and hold them to a field goal. But they got down there twice and got two scores (touchdowns)."

Of course, those Syracuse scoring drives weren't exactly long marches. The Orangemen's four scoring "drives" covered six, 41, 11, and 18 yards.

To some, Elmassian's statements may sound as if Elmassian is pointing the finger at the players. In a snese, he is, because he expects his players to take responsibility for their performance, and for all his players, not just the starters, to be ready to play. However, it would be a mistake to think that he's unhappy with their effort or work ethic.

"I think the kids have been fantastic," Elmassian said in his rapid fire speech after the Syracuse game. "Under these circumstances, I couldn't ask for anything more."

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