Defining Moments Boost WVU Over N.C. State

Defining Moments Boost WVU Over N.C. State

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It was a game with many defining moments, West Virginia’s 44-27 victory over North Carolina State before 57,052 fans in Milan Puskar Stadium, a fitting climax to a week that became a defining moment to Mountaineer coach Neal Brown.

The win came after a week that would have broken a lesser team. On Saturday, they had gone to Missouri, been manhandled 38-7 in a game that wasn’t that close. Then the week was filled with soap operas through preparations, injuries and illness claiming starters, with home run threat Tevin Bush being suspended.

Kids with no experience had to fill in for experienced veterans.

West Virginia defensive lineman Dante Stills makes a tackle for loss
West Virginia defensive lineman Dante Stills makes a tackle for loss

Tempers flared at times. Practices were demanding and quarterback Austin Kendall had to find a way to regroup.

They had lacked toughness. The running backs had gone nowhere and without them the team would go nowhere and everyone knew it.

So this was get tough week.

“Very tough, very hard,” Darius Stills said of practice. “Our coaches wanted to succeed so bad, you could see it in their eyes.”

This would be a defining week and the definition was one that showed promise.

“This was a great team win,” Brown said after the game. “I thought this was a defining moment….. you have these moments where things didn’t go right…. it didn’t go very well. How we responded during the week, that was what was on the field. I’m proud of these guys.”

Brown had four objectives during the week.

“We talked about it all week… this is why I love football. It mirrors life in so many different ways,” he noted. “To me, it’s not when you get back down, it’s how you respond.  I’m so proud of not just our players, but our whole staff (and) how they responded this week. We had a tough but productive week. Some of you have been in this building, you’ve seen the TVs. We talked about four things. From Monday on, we focused on four things.

“Number one was perfect effort,” Brown said. “That’s playing as hard as you can on every snap. The second thing was being physical and playing tough football. (The) third one was doing what we’re coached to do. And the fourth one was just a call to invest. Invest your time and energy into being the best you can. Preparing your body and your mind this week.”

And that was what they did. They grew during the week. It was almost addition by subtraction.

“We have to identify ourselves as a blue collar unit,” Brown emphasized to his team. “We have to outwork people. We have to out hit people. We embraced that this week…. what you saw on the field today was a product that.”

There was so much to back that up. This team that had managed only 64 rushing yards in the first two games had 173 in this one against their former defensive coordinator, Tony Gibson.

They threw for 272 yards and three touchdowns.

And, most important, they won the second half, which is a sign of determination, of guts, of digging deep.

The only second-half offense N.C. State could put together was two field goals.

The Wolfpack, after 19 first-half first downs managed only five in the second half. They had only 25 rushing yards on 15 carries after intermission and passed for 72 yards.

“It was just a multitude of things, whether it was dropped passes or they batted balls.” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. “They adjusted.”

But it was more than technical adjustments.

It was attitudinal adjustments.

This was a team that had spent the week reading social media.

“It made me mad,” Darius Stills admitted. “I even put out a Tweet telling them not to give up on us. In college football, every team loses, even the big name teams.”

The crowd didn’t give up on them.

“I thought the crowd was huge today. They stayed. They were loud. They were really a factor,” Brown said.

And so, against all odds, WVU let with a victory but, more important, with their pride intact, with a reborn confidence that they can win against big time programs.

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