James Sees Practice Work Pay Off For WVU In Win Over N.C. State
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Last week, following West Virginia’s ugly loss to Missouri, wide receiver Sam James said the Mountaineers would not win until they began playing together as a team.
“We just have to grow as a team; come together as one,” James assessed after WVU’s 38-7 loss in Columbia last Saturday. “We played a lot of ‘by ourself ball’. We have to come together as a team. We’re going to start winning games once we do that.”
Like many other aspects of the West Virginia program, it looked as if that goal was a long way off. While the hope was that the Mountaineers could begin building some of that tight-knit team play, there weren’t any expectations that it would come together quickly. James, though, saw it happening almost immediately.
“Monday. It started happening. We practiced hard,” he said succinctly. “We locked in through all the walk-throughs.”
With head coach Neal Brown noting that it was “a hard week of practice,” the picture comes to mind of a slugfest full of contact and physical play. While defensive coordinator Vic Koenning admitted that there was additional hitting in practice this week, James said it was as much the mental approach as anything else that helped lead to West Virginia’s turnaround effort.
“I was very confident about this game because of the Monday practice, and then it carried over to Tuesday and Wednesday.,” he said. “It was the way we carried ourselves after the loss and the way we bounced back.”
James, like many of his teammates, carried that work and attitude from practice into the game on Saturday. The redshirt freshman had nine catches for 155 yards a score, averaging 17.2 yards per reception. That followed a second half against Missouri where he did not meet his expectations or those of his coaches.
“I needed to pick it up, and bring the same energy that I did in the first half,” James said of his play a week ago and how it influenced his approach to practice this week. “We just needed a little bit of a push start to get it rolling.”
While happy for the way the entire team got off the mat and played against the Wolfpack, James was especially complimentary of one unit, which has been the target of a good deal of criticism this season.
“I’m proud of our 0-line,” James stated. “They fought back; they fought through adversity. People were criticizing them, and they proved their point today that they can compete with the best.”