"You can be so charged up that you can't focus," Sheffey said. "I actually did it once this year. I got so fired up for (Maryland) that I ended up making myself sick in the middle of the game. I knew I had to just calm down and play ball. Once I got myself to calm down, I actually played a pretty good ball game."
He learned much that game, a 45-24 West Virginia win, about self-control. He already had a foundation, being a sports psychology major. But it wasn't until the night home game against the rival Terps that he realized how important not becoming overly-excited can be for both individuals and a team in their respective bids to execute and play well. Sheffey calmed himself enough that he could control his mental and physical play. A double-digit halftime lead – and a 28-0 edge at the end of the first quarter – didn't hurt, either.
"I have professors that kind of mentor me," Sheffey said. "I can tell when I am getting too excited here or there. I can calm myself back down now. My professors think it's nice because I actually use what they teach me. And coach (Rich) Rodriguez does a nice job of teaching us how not to panic. The coaching staff puts us in high-stress situations all the time so when you get into a high-stress game situation where you are behind, and we have been there before, we are all right."
West Virginia certainly was against Louisville last season, when it rallied from a 24-7 deficit with eight minutes left to beat the Cardinals 46-44 in triple overtime. That win, in which the backfield tandem of tailback Steve Slaton and quarterback Patrick White emerged, led to a 14-game winning streak, the school's longest ever. It set-up this road contest, a place where West Virginia has won a school-record tying nine games in a row, as arguably the biggest regular season game in the last decade. And the U of L win last season catapulted the Mountaineers into the national conscious, especially following the 38-35 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia, the biggest postseason win in school history.
So there have been a few occasions to test all those professional sports psychology theories, starting with the idea that it is, indeed, best to take any game one snap at a time.
"Even when we got down to Louisville, the team and I, we kind of said ‘All right, we did not play very well in the first half. We are behind,'" Sheffey said. "‘So let's just take it one play at a time. Let's win the next play, then go to the next, and so on. We're behind, so if we lose a play, no big deal.' That's kind of how we went and how we pulled it off. We grew up a lot as a team. Pat became a leader that night. Once everybody realized he could do it and Slaton was as good as he is…"
West Virginia took off. Which led Sheffey to this very game, on the biggest of stages and in, if not the biggest of states, then at least the most important one to him.
"Oh, make no mistake. I am real excited," he said. "This is a big game for me, a homecoming. I get to play in my home state. I am ready. But I also have to play relaxed. Fear nobody and respect all. That's kind of our motto."