Toughness has been the buzzword around camp Mountaineer this week.
That’s because it simply was missing in the 50-39 loss to Oklahoma State prompting head coach Dana Holgorsen to say that things were going to get uncomfortable. While it was a shot across the board, the physical element, or lack thereof, is always noticeable in the trenches.
The Mountaineers rushed for 62 yards on 30 carries against the Cowboys and that isn’t even the worst performance of the year after a 44-yard performance against Texas Tech.
Numbers that would make anybody uncomfortable considering that West Virginia had built its brand of late on its toughness and running the football but now suddenly has struggled in that area.
So how do you reestablish an edge up front?
It isn’t easy but you stay the course.
“It’s the same mission. It isn’t like you didn’t demand; we are going to be tough this game, we are going to fight hard this game or this game we are going to fight less or this will take this much,” offensive line coach Joe Wickline said. “No. We stress this week that it is going to take all we have on every play and we didn’t. We didn’t get it.”
Wickline did feel that the unit gave good effort and got after it on the field it was simply an issue of not winning battles and some missed assignments that led to the poor effort. That can’t continue to happen. Whether a missed slant, a bad run fit or a whiff on blocking there has to be more attention to detail.
“We have to get better,” Wickline said.
It isn’t fair to place the blame at the feet of any one position, but the offensive linemen did feel responsible for the failures of the offense against the Cowboys.
“We take a lot of the blame. We have to pick our stuff up, up front. We have to do better up front,” redshirt senior offensive lineman Grant Lingafelter said.
Before the game, Wickline elected to flop the guards on his offensive line to find a better combination and while he has settled in with the tackles and redshirt sophomore Matt Jones at center.
Wickline has been consistent in his message since fall camp that this group is far from a finished product and the goal is to get better each week. That means demanding intensity in the trenches.
“We can look at the tape, learn from it and move onto the next game,” he said.
That includes some old-fashioned toughness.
“It’s going to take all we have on every play,” Wickline said.