10:06am: Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval

Short week alters preparation, but Mountaineers and Hokies in ‘pretty equal’ positions

(Neal Brown pregame press conference)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s quickest turnaround between games in 12 seasons comes when the Mountaineers face Virginia Tech at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Lane Stadium.

Not since October 2010 in what was Bill Stewart’s final season as head coach have the Mountaineers had only four full days between contests, but that’s the case this week after a 65-7 victory over FCS foe Towson that provided West Virginia (1-2) with its first win.

With a condensed week, recuperation is as important as ever.

“We talked about it after the [Towson] game before we even sang the fight song,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said. “We talked about it from a physical well-being standpoint, the hydration piece, making sure you’re eating and resting to prepare for Monday, because we knew that would be our work day. I hope we did. I’ll know more today. 

“On the radio show tomorrow, I’ll be able to tell you, but I’m hopeful. The guys were in good spirits yesterday. We ran around yesterday and I don’t think we had anybody dehydrated, so that’s a positive. We’ll be ready to go on Thursday night.”

The extra emphasis on players doing their part to ensure proper recovery includes them taking advantage of several luxurious devices available inside the Milan Puskar Center specifically designed to aid in that cause. 

“When we can make it mandatory, we do depending on where we’re at from an hours standpoint during the week,” Brown said. “We have all those down there. I know a bunch of guys were in the float tank yesterday and today. That really helps rejuvenate you. I’ve used it, too. After a short week, I may have to go down there myself. That stuff definitely helps. 

“We had mandatory recovery yesterday and they had a lift and recovery today. We’ll do the same thing on Wednesday before we leave on the flight. We’re putting a little use into it and to the guys’ credit, most of them do it every week anyway.”

There is also the challenge of learning the Hokies’ tendencies, discovering where they’ve been successful and where they may be vulnerable in a shorter period of time.

For quarterback JT Daniels, that means condensing a normal week’s worth of preparation. 

Normally, Daniels says his Sunday focus is on the opponent’s last three games against teams with a similar-style offense to West Virginia’s, discovering the opposition’s defensive identity, how he’ll process coverages to identify prior to plays and position techniques within specific spots of a defense. 

(JT Daniels pregame press conference) 

On Monday, the focus shifts to situations and a rundown of first-and-10, second-and-6 or less, the defense’s top three coverages and pressure percentage. The next day, it’s a similar script, but one that changes second downs to long-yardage situations (7-plus yards), before looking into third downs separated by medium, long and extra long yardage situations on Wednesday. Thursday’s work focuses on what does and doesn’t work in the red zone, before Sunday’s process is repeated Friday in what Daniels described as a final reassurance of readiness.

With no Thursday or Friday film study to fall back on this week, it’s somewhat of a rushed process for Daniels, one that won’t lessen his studying.

“I basically just have to combine two of the days two times,” Daniels said. 

There are two positives to strongly consider as it pertains to the short week of preparation for the Mountaineers. The lopsided win against the Tigers allowed reserves to get the majority of second-half action and starters to rest, some as early as late in the first half.

Additionally, Virginia Tech played Saturday against Wofford of the FCS in a game that began at 11 a.m. and saw the Hokies improve to 2-1 with a 27-7 win.

“I don’t think it’s as much of a factor this week, because they’re doing the same thing,” Brown said. “They played an FCS opponent on Saturday. We both played earlier in the day, so it’s pretty equal. I’ve had to play them before when we were the only team coming off a short week. That makes it really hard.“

The matchup with the Hokies marks the second of West Virginia’s three Thursday games this season. In addition to the season opener September 1 at Pitt, West Virginia will welcome Baylor to Milan Puskar Stadium for what is its next home game October 13.

“A lot of eyes are going to be on us and this is another opportunity for us in prime time,” Brown said. “We were close but didn’t get it done the first week.”

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