Toughness was the battle cry all last week and it worked.
West Virginia beat then No. 14 Iowa State 20-16 by controlling the line of scrimmage, welcomed words to the ears of head coach Dana Holgorsen who has helped build his brand on that style of play in recent weeks.
Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the defense held a power five opponent to under 31-points for the first time this year without the services of four starters and key reserves.
To accomplish that edge, the Mountaineers had more physical practices throughout the week and skipped a typical Tuesday teaching day in order to go uppers and knock around.
But there is a fine line between being physical and being smart over the long haul.
“We’ve practiced the same way around here for a long time and I think we have a pretty good formula on how we do that to get guys ready to go from a preparation point of view,” Holgorsen said.
So while it was needed last week, the overly physical practice sessions aren’t likely going to become a staple of the every week routine around camp Mountaineer.
“I don’t know if you can continue to do that,” Holgorsen said.
But even without the actual sessions being turned up from a physical aspect over the course of the week, the message has still been received loud and clear.
And in the end isn’t that the point?
It just isn’t like the old days.
Once upon a time, in the not-too distant past, college football players would play both ways, pitchers would get past the 100-pitch mark in baseball and everything in between.
So what’s the difference with today’s well-oiled, conditioned athletes that are bigger, faster and stronger than their predecessors but are often played on snap counts.
Well, it’s simple.
“It’s all performance based,” Holgorsen said.
“Fresh legs are important, but if take a really good player, and he’s worn out, now he’s a very average player. If his backup is an above average player but not a great player you’d really want to play that above average guy that’s worn out and now average,” Holgorsen said.
In large part because of the snaps per game anymore and the up-tempo offenses in college football, games are closer to 100 snaps on each side than the 50 it was in the past. That means there are more snaps to go around as well for players that are rested on the sideline.
In the end it’s not really a matter of the players changing, more the game itself.
Holgorsen has made it no secret that he has long-admired Kansas State coach Bill Snyder.
Growing up in Iowa, as a high school student Holgorsen watched Snyder when he was on staff with the Hawkeyes and now he is squaring off against him on the field.
Taking a page from Snyder, Holgorsen adopted the same rules on discussing injuries after a physical week of practice with several starters missing the game against Iowa State.
“I’m not talking about injuries and neither is Coach Snyder, so you guys can just hold that question. Everybody is day-to-day, just like in Manhattan, those guys are day-to-day and they’ll probably figure out who is practicing and that may impact who plays,” he said.