WVU Players are Trusting the Climb Despite Year-One Hardships
‘Trust the climb’ is not just some slogan to put on poster and hashtag on social media, it is the motivation and mindset for the West Virginia football team in Neal Brown’s first year.
Even at a 3-5 record and losing four straight games, the Mountaineers showed on Thursday against Baylor that continued improvement and trusting the climb can lead to spectacular things. WVU might not get any credit in the win column for the way they played against Baylor, but the way they played showed that they are on the right track.
“I never, for one second, thought that our kids wouldn’t answer the bell,” Brown said after the game. “Every time they’ve had any adversity, they answer. And that’s why I hurt for them. We’ve got guys that are hurting in that locker room, and they’re hurting because they’re invested and they’re all in on what we’re doing. Some of the belief that happened tonight, it will pay off down the road. It will pay off this season, it will pay off in years to come.”
Baylor is a prime example of how taking lumps early can lead to great things in the long run. Just two years ago the Bears won only one game, and now they one of the last undefeated teams left in the country.
“They’re number 12 in the country, they’re undefeated, they’re in year three of a really good turnaround. I don’t think their kids ever lost faith,” Brown said. “We’re in year one here. I think what this showed is, we came in here, on the road, in a hostile environment, on national TV, coming off a putrid half of football at Oklahoma, and we’ve lost three in a row and what you saw was a group of kids that laid it on the line and invested.”
Brown said if the team can play with the same effort they had against Baylor, only good things will happen.
“We’ve got to take that same strain, that same effort, that same physicality we played with, we’ve got to continue to do that,” Brown said. “We just have to focus on getting better. I knew if we continued this process of getting better, we trusted what we were doing, if we focused on the task at hand and didn’t get carried away on being result-oriented, I knew we’d have a chance to win the game, and we did. Every game we play we’ll have a chance if we do those things.”
Despite the losses and struggles this season, players have bought into Brown’s message.
“Coach Brown emphasizes ‘just fight’. Our team does have a lot of fight in us,” junior defensive lineman Darius Stills said. “He really emphasizes on just remain doing your job and stuff will work out for us. Us playing that hard in that game, we’re going to win a lot of games playing that hard. Coming up short just doesn’t feel good.”
Stills played his best game of the season Thursday, racking up three sacks and ten tackles.
“It’s a team effort,” Reese Donahue added. “You can’t put it all on the coaches, you can’t put it all on the players. I thought it was a good team effort, from the top of the staff to the bottom of the staff, from the top of the roster to the bottom of the roster.”
Receiver Winston Wright has not seen the field much this season, but when called upon Thursday he was ready. On his first career kick return, the freshman took the ball 95 yards to the endzone. He said he has just been listening to everything the coaching staff has been telling him.
“We’ve been trusting the climb so we’re just doing everything Coach Brown and the coaching staff has been telling us to,” Wright said. “It turned out good, we game up short, but we just keep trusting the climb.”