Call this a warning to the West Virginia University football team.
When it travels to Louisville for a noon game Saturday it could be walking into the most dangerous trap since Gen. George Custer thought he’d take care of a few Indians at Little Big Horn.
Those who study the psychology of the game and try to understand how upsets occur know this is classic scenario for an upset.
Think of the factors:
a. West Virginia comes into the game off a big victory over Cincinnati
b. They go on the road to Louisville
c. Louisville comes off a loss and is in its own desperate situation, needing to win to become bowl eligible
d. Most important, the game sits the week before the Backyard Brawl meeting with Pitt that could be for the conference championship
If that isn’t a dangerous situation for a favorite, there isn’t one.
“I’m glad brought that up,” WVU Coach Bill Stewart said during his weekly Sunday conference call.
It was something, he admitted, that he had penciled in as an item of discussion with his team during its Sunday night meeting.
“The question is can you do it over and over in a different circumstance?” he said.
Winning must breed winning, no matter what the situation.
“Can you do it at home? Can you do it on the road? Can you do after an off-week? Can you do it after two tough losses? Can you do it after a win?” said Stewart.
The truth is, you have to do it in all those circumstances if you are going to be a champion.
The trick wasn’t so much getting them ready for a home game against Cincinnati after an off-week, for it came on the heels of unanticipated two-game losing streak to Syracuse and Connecticut. The season was slipping away, but when Pitt lost on Thursday night to Connecticut, it was like an injection of life into the Mountaineers.
“I knew we’d fight back,” Stewart admitted.
He knows something else, too.
“I know they’ll get ready for Pitt,” he said.
But first things first.
“They better get ready for Louisville or they’ll get their butt handed to them, just like [they did against] UConn and Syracuse,” the coach said of his players. “What you have to do is take your business – I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s still Round 5. We just have to give a little more. We gave a whole lot Saturday. Now we have to give a little more. We have to refine it, get it better, believe in the system, be sharp. If we play smart football, we usually come out pretty good.”
That is not an understatement. In fact, if you talk to the WVU players they will almost all tell you that very seldom has WVU been beat squarely and head to head by an opponent, that almost always it has come about with the Mountaineers making mistakes and turning the ball over.
In other words, their own worst enemy is themselves.
While Stewart knows that to be true, he is reluctant to come out and say it because of the way it sounds.
“I want to agree with the players but I don’t want people to think we sit over here in an arrogant manner and say the only time we lose is when we beat ourselves,” Stewart said in answering the question from Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. “That’s a tough question. You lose when you turn the ball over with an interception, line up wrong, make mental mistakes, but I don’t want to people to say ‘Oh my gosh, no one ever beats them.’ That sounds arrogant, but there’s validity in what you say.”
In truth, if they were to lose at Louisville in this trap game, that is probably exactly what would happen, the Mountaineers playing down a level, rather than the Cardinals rising up enough to beat them without help.%
Still, Stewart knows it will be a challenge.
“We went down there two years ago and that was a tough win (WVU 35, Louisville 21). Boy that was a tough one down there. We’re going to find out just how mature this football team is,” Stewart said.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call this a warning to the West Virginia University football team.
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