By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Just when the West Virginia University Mountaineers figured they had seen all they were ever going to see of Texas Tech senior defensive back Cody Davis, and had to be quite happy to put him in their rear view mirror as they try to rescue a season now in danger of slipping away, he has thrown one final dagger at them.
Cody Davis was a name you heard quite often as the Red Raiders were pinning a rather humiliating 49-14 defeat on the then No. 4/5 Mountaineers on Saturday. It seemed like every other play he was making a tackle, finishing the game with 13 of them.
For the effort he won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.
That should have been enough, but Davis was about to put his hardest hit on them in his personal blog — “Student of the Game.”
Rather than paraphrasing, let us simply offer up what he wrote and that was posted on NBCSports.com by Ben Kerchaval.
“I usually don’t say anything bad about opponents, but this was by far the cockiest and selfish team I have ever seen on film and in person. I have played a lot of football too, so I think that says something. I might be wrong, but that’s how I saw it. Everyone has an attitude playing football, but it seemed to be more than that. From Eugene Smith not shaking hands at the coin toss and waving us off to Tavon Austin doing his strut every single catch he made, they were all about Me, Myself, and I…”
Now, before I allow you offer any indignation over these comments, let me assure you that they come from what seems to be a sincere, down-to-earth athlete from what he said following the criticism.
“The media has informed me of some accomplishments and they love these kind of the stats, but the reason behind these are nothing special and credit goes to many people other than me. I have surpassed 300 tackles, but I think that’s because I have been here too long! The coaches have also made a big emphasis on tackling in practice. I also have received the Big 12 Player of the Week, and I have to give all the credit to God, the coaching staff, and the rest of the Chain Gang. Overall, this was a much needed great win at home.”
That comes across as modest, a kid with a sense of humor willing to share his success with teammates, coaches and more interested in the win than in his own honor.
The question is whether or not he was reading the Mountaineers right.
Certainly, their attitude entering the game was off kilter, their coach Dana Holgorsen noting that they were not mentally prepared to play, thinking that this might be an easy game, which goes back to him talking about how cocky he found the Mountaineers.
He was asked if he felt similar feelings to Davis, that his team was too cocky, too confident entering the game.
“If I had those answers, I would have fixed it before,” he said. “It is a challenging game. We are all spoiled with as much as we won around here and we don’t like the loss, but we are not going to get used to it; I can assure you of that.”
There is a fine line between being cocky and overconfident and sure of one’s self. A coach wants a team that believes it can win but probably not one that is so sure it will win that its effort is lacking, as West Virginia’s was.
Holgorsen wants a confident team, but he wants one to understand that they aren’t going to intimidate anyone by not shaking hands at the coin toss or by dancing after making a catch, that the only way to really intimidate an opponent is to outplay him consistently.
There never were any “dances” from Jim Brown, the greatest running back ever to play in the NFL. He would finish a run, get up as if he would never see another play, walk slowly back to the huddle and then take the next snap, run over two tacklers, cut sharply in one direction or another and run non-stop to the end zone, where there would be no celebration, no dunking over the goal post.
Bear Bryant’s players back on his great Alabama teams would always been seen at the end of plays helping a defender to his feet, a nice gesture until the defender realized that he never had the chance to help the opponents to their feet because he had never knocked them down.
Cockiness wasn’t what Holgorsen was looking for last week.
“There are nine other teams in the Big 12 that are all used to winning and all have really good facilities, and it is going to be challenging each and every week,” Holgorsen said. “My message going to the team last week was to accept the grind because it is reality.
“Texas Tech has been to bowl games 19 out of the last 20 years. It is a good program with good facilities and was a good football team. We watched them on tape and said ,‘Look, these guys are pretty dang good. You better get ready to play.’
“We didn’t have enough guys that bought into that. That was 100 percent my fault and my responsibility to make sure that they did that, and they didn’t.”
And so, when it was over, the cockiness that Davis had noted was terribly misplaced.
You have to do something before you can be cocky, and what you did last week doesn’t carry over in a league like the Big 12.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.