West Virginia's sophomore slot back had a tough start in the Mountaineers' 35-13 win over UConn on Saturday. He had two tough, but makeable, chances to make catches on WVU's second drive of the day, and couldn't come up with either one, forcing a Pat McAfee punt. While Sanders was clearly upset with himself at not coming up with the ball, he also was able to put the plays away and concentrate on the next one.
"When I come to the sidelines after missing a play, it's not good that I dropped it or didn't make the catch. But the coaches aren't yelling or screaming. They tell me, 'You'll get the next one. Great players always make mistakes.' So I just come out and try to do better on the next possession."
That's an attitude that is commonly seen among defensive backs, whose mistakes are often visible for all to see. Skill position players on offense also need to have it, as a drop, fumble or interception can have lasting effects if allowed to linger. UConn quarterback Cody Endres suffered just such a reaction after his first interception, leading to two more and a disastrous downhill slide for the Husky offense. However, Sanders, buoyed by his coaching staff and teammates, didn't allow him to fall into that trap, which paved the way for his three-touchdown outburst in the third quarter.
The sparkplus for WVU's offense in this game, Sanders was, as usual, quick to credit his teammates.
"I owe all that to the offensive line," he said of the stretch in which he scored three times. "As a whole our offense is gelling and our defense is playing tremendous ball. But I do think we have a whole other level we can show. We are trusting the system that we are running more now, and getting more used to it."
That system was displayed over the course of this game, as WVU got in a number of different offensive formations and plays in the first half. Although they didn't result in big numbers on the scoreboard, they did allow the coaching staff to set up some plays in the second half, and identify the areas they wanted to attack.
"We have so many different formations, and the coaches called some great plays at the right time," Sanders noted.
Thus armed, WVU rolled up some good offensive numbers in the second half, although greatly aided by plus field position as the result of turnovers. That shouldn't be viewed as a negative, however, as the Mountaineers shook off its first half doldrums to race to the win.
"When you have great players like Pat and Noel, they will find their game," Sanders said. "Teams haven't been able to put us away, and once we get going in the second half we've been able to do so."