Not every player is built to be a leader and not every leader is built to be a vocal leader. For the first six games of the season, leadership and especially vocal leadership appeared to be lacking on West Virginia’s sidelines. Leaders step up in times of crisis and to say the Mountaineers, at 2-4, were in crisis would be stating the obvious. You did not see anyone up and down the sidelines, trying to will their teammates to a win and by the time the game ended at Baylor, it was obvious everyone in the old gold and blue were ready to get back home and turn the page.
Dante Stills and Leddie Brown were the two players chosen by head coach Neal Brown to attend Big 12 Media Days in June and it is obvious to suspect that those two players are captains on this team. Captains however don’t always carry the heart of the team nor are they vocal leaders. That doesn’t mean they aren’t leaders, but vocal leaders are different. Football and sports in general are littered with players who were not vocal yet teams respected them and followed them, yet when times got tough and the team needed fire, silent leaders are not what a team needs.
Enter Mike linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo, who helped call a player’s only meeting during the off-week. “
We had a team meeting. Players only,” said the senior linebacker from Canton, Ohio, “We talked about things like how we wanted to finish and how we want to be remembered. I feel like it hit home. Practice was different. Our attention to detail was a lot stronger. We were focused.”
Focused. Attention to detail. Those are traits that head coach Neal Brown was brought in to help spread across the program and build towards something more. The meeting seemed to pay off as the Mountaineers produced their first 200-yard rushing effort of the season and finally broke over 100 yards in conference play.
“We played more physical,” said Leddie Brown, “more physical than TCU’s defensive line.”
More physical and more focused. Items the Mountaineers had been missing and items the Mountaineers found during the bye week and during their road game on Saturday.
“This isn’t an unexpected win. That’s the thing about it. Our guys have really expected to win. We just haven’t done things in the fourth quarter, outside the Baylor game, to go win the games. “ head coach Neal Brown said Saturday following the 29-17 victory in Fort Worth, “We went and won it. We were able to run the clock out. We made key takeaways in the second half. So, they’re excited.
“We talked about, ‘Hey, we’ve got a one-game season each week.’ We talk about, ‘Hey, new season. Second half. How are we going to respond?’ Obviously we responded.”
The Mountaineers responded and now at 3-4, are still eyeing the possibility of a bowl game. It won’t be easy since they need to win 3 games before they lose 3. Going 3-2 down the stretch with Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas may seem like a tall task, but its a better task than being 2-5 and needing to win 4. They took care of the first win last weekend and now will need to see if they can eliminate the demon of Iowa State on Saturday.