The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

November 18, 2010

‘It’s all about staying focused’

Everyone knows the problems West Virginia has incurred on the road this year.

There were the losses to LSU (20-14) and Connecticut (16-13 in overtime). And the Mountaineers needed a 15-point comeback against Marshall to get out of Huntington with an overtime win (24-21).

Nobody knows this more than the WVU players.

But nobody is panicking as the Mountaineers (6-3, 2-2 Big East) prepare to travel to Louisville (5-5, 2-3) for a noon kickoff Saturday at Papa John’s Stadium.

“It’s all about staying focused,” offensive lineman Joe Madsen said. “It’s easier to do that on your home field with the crowd behind you, so we just have to stay focused when we’re away.”

That was a problem at LSU and Connecticut, but quarterback Geno Smith thinks those games proved to be learning experiences for what lies ahead, which includes a trip to Pitt on Friday, Nov. 26.

“It’s not tough at all,” Smith said. “We’ve played in some difficult places like Baton Rouge and I think that really prepared us for games like this on the road. They’re going to have a loud crowd, so we need to be ready for it.”

Likewise, defensive lineman Julian Miller doesn’t think it’s any harder than it is playing at home.

“I can’t say that the environment is any tougher to play in than when we’re at home,” Miller said.

“You love to play in front of the home crowd, but it all comes down to just executing and doing your part.”

So it will be key for the Mountaineers to get a quick start against Louisville.

“We have to come out fast,” slot receiver Jock Sanders, who is primed to become WVU’s all-time leading receiver, said. “We have to go in with the mentality of playing our own game.”

Madsen said the Mountaineers’ convincing win over Cincinnati provided a new confidence around the team.

“We need to come out and still have that fire under us to go out and compete,” he said. “We all came together last week, getting excited after the game, turning up the music and getting in each other’s faces — we had fun again. It was so much fun to bring back that family aspect of it.”

And the chance to win the Big East, after Pitt’s loss to UConn last Thursday and the Mountaineers’ subsequent win Saturday, has added to the newfound optimism around the team.

“I think it will help us stay focused and keep the momentum going to play well,” Smith said. “It’s extremely important. Those two losses really hit us deep and we feel that we should have won those games. We got over them, though. Having that extra week off and getting mad at each other, going extra hard in practice really helped us. Our defense and offense are competing. We got after each other in practice. Practicing hard translates into playing hard. That is going to be a snowball effect for our team.”

Saturday’s game will be broadcast on the Big East Network (WOAY-TV locally).

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