When foes are pressing the line, stacking the box with eight players and leaving the wideouts one-on-one; when they are bringing delayed cornerback blitzes from the backside; when they call the kamikaze rush and leave plays to chance – that's when either West Virginia or the opponent is going to strike big. Somebody's going to make a play – either a sack or a stop for a loss, a huge gainer via the pass or a backbreaking run – and somebody's going to be burned.
"We call those situations ‘Instruments Up,' Rodriguez said, "because somebody's band is gonna be playing when they score. We don't know it if will be them or us, but a big play is going to happen, and up go those instruments."
The comment got a chuckle out of the media, but it rings true. In no other major college sport does the band chime in the moment a big play happens. Slaton rips off a 52-yard touchdown run against Georgia: Instruments Up. The game MVP seals the Sugar Bowl win by doing again later from the same distance: Instruments Up. He does it six times against Louisville, and the band played on, likely to the point of a good lip chapping on Sunday.
Some contests evolve into a back-and-forth affair, a la the 2005 Maryland game. The Mountaineers dominated the first three quarters (Hail, West Virginia!), then survived a furious Terrapin rally (Maryland, My Maryland – sung to the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree") when Owen Schmitt entered and helped lead a late drive. He gained most of his team-high 80 rushing yards in a bruising effort that was capped by late touchdown runs of 19 and 13 yards and a dented facemask from where he put his face on a Maryland linebacker (Now is the time, boys, to make a big noise…).
This is, obviously, all in good fun. But one can see the myriad of effective uses in video game play. Down four and driving with nary a timeout and one minute left? Send in the flag route and spot the single coverage with the free safety on the strong side. Glance at your opponents and just slyly say, "Instruments up." Then hit the bomb for the win. Record a PBU as the players try for a forward pass that lands foul upon the grass? Instruments up, as the marching band refuses to yield.
Or, perhaps, up 38-35 and facing a fourth and 11 with your foe rallying hard? Just 1:45 to kill? Call the fake, baby, and let your punter sprint into the record book as he becomes the one man to strike up the band. Instruments up, indeed.