At first glance, tying patience to the hurry-up aggressive Mountaineer attack might seem to be a stretch. There's nothing patient about head coach Rich Rodriguez' offensive system, which thrives on applying pressure to opposing defenses in a variety of manners. However, at its core, patience is required to make the offense go. Offensive lineman Greg Isdaner explains.
"Patience is definitely important for us," the brainy guard said after the Maryland game, where a second consecutive week of halftime adjustments led to a convincing win. "When I am playing out there, I might get frustrated, because things aren't going well. All of us might get that way when things aren't happening. But then we realize that we haven't seen this look before from the defense, so we know we can adjust. For example, we've been blitzed this year more than all of last year combined. So, we are seeing new things, but we know we can get there eventually."
The patience extends to playcalling and game planning as well. While some observers are ready to junk the entire offensive plan or quit running a certain play if it isn't successful the first time out, cooler heads (such as those on the coaching staff) thankfully prevail. Many times, a play or formation is run to see how the defense will react and cover it, especially early in the game. Armed with that information, the coaches can usually come up with another play or formation that takes advantage of the defense's reactions. That's a linchpin of head coach Rich Rodriguez' offense, which relies on having a counter to anything a defense can throw at it. However, in order to figure out those counters, the offense sometimes has to explore several different options before identifying the right one. And in doing so, patience is required.
That doesn't mean, of course, that WVU isn't trying to score on each possession. And it certainly isn't pulling plays out of a hat and trying different things blindly. The coaches' experience in facing many different defenses gives them a good starting point for those plays. Sometimes the week's game plan works right off the bat, or just requires some minor tinkering to get into high gear. Other times, however, more significant adjustments must be made, which can require more time.
None of this, of course, satisfies the average viewer. The expectation is for a thirty-yard Steve Slaton run or a 25-yard Darius Reynaud reception on every play. A punt is viewed as abject failure. And seven points in a half? Heresy. Fortunately, the Mountaineer squad doesn't let such shortsightedness affect them. As Isdaner notes, the other team is out there playing and making changes as well.
"The teams we play definitely look at last week's game tape and say, ‘How are we going to stop what they did last week?' We obviously don't know what they are going to do coming in, so as long as we are hanging in there at halftime, we know we can make adjustments. It might not look great to everyone, but we understand that we have the time to adjust. We have great coaches here, and they will do the things to get us in the right position to have success."
There are many other examples of patience proving to be the ultimate virtue. Despite calls for more carries and roles for freshmen such as Noel Devine, Rodriguez has avoided the temptation of throwing too much too soon at the rising star. Devine probably could be taking 10-12 carries per game at this point, but the path Rodriguez is following has proved to be an excellent one. And who's to say that Devine would be doing as well if he had been thrown into the fire earlier on? Again, patience has proved to be a key.
A third, and most obvious area, has been the defense. Despite continued browbeating from a variety of quarters, West Virginia's defensive staff hasn't panicked. It has made adjustments that the players can handle, continued to focus on fundamentals, and stayed the course despite calls for the heads of everyone from the coordinator down to graduate assistants. That calmness, that outward lack of distress (although the coaches are certainly inwardly affected by the outpouring of negativism that flows from many) is translated to the players. They understand that their coaches, while not accepting poor execution or mental mistakes, are going to stay the course, and that improvements and good play can result. All it takes, it seems, is a little patience.