West Virginia Returns To Its Physical Roots

West Virginia Returns To Its Physical Roots

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen felt his team showed a lack of toughness in a 50-39 loss to Oklahoma State Oct. 28.

“It’s about to get uncomfortable around here,” he said, following the loss.

Demonstrating his point, the coach had the Mountaineers practice in full pads with plenty of hitting this week. The players thought the physical nature of the practices helped them regain what they’d lost and helped them respond with a hard-fought 20-16 win over Iowa State Saturday.

“It was more physical, a lot more good on good,” linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton said. “I thought it was great for the young guys to learn it needs to be uncomfortable sometimes. You can’t get that hard edge when you’re not in pads.”

West Virginia linebacker Al Rasheed Benton (3) ties up Iowa State’s David Montgomery (32) as Kyzir White (8) move in to assist

Other players agreed that the team regained its toughness.

“It was like the old days when I was at Michigan and we hit every day,” senior guard Kyle Bosch said. “We wanted to make a statement and get tougher on both sides of the ball. There was a lot of fighting, a lot of scrums but that’s what happens.”

Senior running back Justin Crawford also returned to form after three sub-par outings. He started the year with five straight 100-yard games but collected a combined 122 yards on the ground over the last three games, against Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State.

“No doubt about it,” Crawford said of this past week’s practices, “it helped us get back to where we want to be.”

The Mountaineers gained 208 yards on the ground while the defense limited the Cyclones to just one touchdown and 101 yards rushing – about half of what it had been giving up heading into today’s game.

Crawford set the pace with tough inside running, amassing 83 yards in the first half. He said he didn’t feel like he ran any differently from when he struggled.

“It’s tough but you’ve got to get over it and move on,” Crawford said of his recent struggles. “I just try to play my butt off, do what I can to help this team win.”

Crawford was spelled by Kennedy McKoy in the late going. McKoy contributed 60 yards on 12 carries, eight of his runs coming in the fourth quarter.

ROLLING AND BOWLING: West Virginia’s victory makes it bowl-eligible under coach Dana Holgorsen for the sixth time in his seven seasons in Morgantown.

The Mountaineers’ victory over No. 14 Iowa State represents the first time since 2012 they have defeated two nationally ranked teams in the same year. Back on Oct. 14, WVU knocked off then-24th-ranked Texas Tech, 46-35 in Morgantown.

QUOTABLE: WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson on his defense, which gave up 13 second-half points but came up big when it mattered most in a 20-16 win over Iowa State: “We could have played ‘til midnight and I was happy where we were at.”