Coaches welcomed small taste of adversity
MORGANTOWN - Dana Holgorsen spent a lot of time early Saturday evening talking about adversity.
In a way, that's rather odd because it's been quite a while since his West Virginia football team has faced any of that. Of course, that's exactly the point.
"We haven't faced adversity going back to last year, obviously,'' Holgorsen said.
Indeed, West Virginia's 42-12 rout of James Madison Saturday at FedEx Field was the Mountaineers' third straight in which the second half - and sometimes even the second quarter - was almost immaterial.
That includes January's 70-33 rout of Clemson in the Orange Bowl and the 69-34 walkover against Marshall in this season's opener.
In order to find the last time West Virginia actually had to perform under pressure, one must go back to the end of the 2011 regular season. That was when three straight wins by a total of seven points against Cincinnati, Pitt and South Florida got the Mountaineers into that Orange Bowl.
So Holgorsen's point now is well taken. Eventually games are not going to be won by an average of 60-26, which has been the norm over those last three games. And when those games do get closer, can this team handle the adversity that is sure to be included in a close game?
Well, James Madison didn't really give the Mountaineers a huge dose of adversity Saturday, but two drives inside the WVU 5 to start the second half qualify as such more than anything else West Virginia has faced lately.
And after seeing the defense turn JMU away with two goal-line stands, that was somewhat encouraging.
"Going back to last year, we had three close games to finish the season and we did a great job of overcoming adversity,'' Holgorsen said. "The goal-line stands were impressive. As a team we overcame some adversity.''
Perhaps that will come in handy this week when the Mountaineers, up to No. 8 in this week's Associated Press poll, play again. That comes Saturday when WVU (2-0) hosts Maryland (2-1) in a noon game at Mountaineer Field. But even if it doesn't, it is sure to be on the horizon, because after that begins Big 12 play against the likes of Baylor and Texas right off the bat.
It seems a good bet, too, that when adversity strikes this season it will be with West Virginia's defense on the field. That's not to say the defense is undermanned, but it is still feeling its way and has some of the most potent offenses in the country waiting down the line.
So after getting just a taste of the pressure of having to perform against JMU, if nothing else the defense knows how it feels.
"Our defense rose to the occasion,'' first-year defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said. "I'm glad we were put in that situation this early in the season.''
BRIEFLY: West Virginia's coaches named the champions for the James Madison game Sunday and again they were a bit under the radar.
Running back Andrew Buie was named the offensive champion after rushing for 31 yards and catching five passes for 90 yards. Linebacker Josh Francis was the defensive champion and freshman K.J. Dillon the special teams champion.
The scout team champions were Devonte Robinson and Austin Copeland.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1