Senior linebacker J.T. Thomas led three Mountaineers named to the Big East football awards list…
Credit At The Top
That stretch couldn't have come at a better time as the team begins preparations next week for North Carolina State and the Champs Sports Bowl later this month. Rallying from a pair of abysmal performances in late October, WVU salvaged a spot in a respectable bowl game by winning their final four contests. Sophomore quarterback Geno Smith credits head Coach Bill Stewart in rallying the team and helping it avoid a collapse. "Coach Stewart did an incredible job," said Smith. "He held everyone accountable. He didn't make any excuses and it wasn't a pity party. Everyone was accountable. He told us that our backs were against the wall and we had to fight out and I think that's what we did." While Stewart was responsible for rallying his team and helping with their attitudes off of the field, Smith believes that the team's ability to get their turnovers under control for the final stretch of their season was a major factor as well. "The key difference was just the turnovers," explained Smith. "We didn't turn it over as much. We were all out there playing in sync. Also, I think Shawne Alston came in and gave us a bit of a change up. Overall, I think the turnover difference was the difference in the wins and losses. After those two losses everyone was down and everyone had to look themselves in the mirror. It came down to just going out and having fun and once we eliminated the mistakes the sky was the limit for us." The final factor that Smith credits in helping to turn the team around was having a bye week following the second loss. The week off not only gave the team time to rest, but also allowed it to truly think about their play in the two games and reevaluate everything that contributed to the losses. "Not to disrespect the teams that beat us but we felt like we should have won those games," said Smith. "We told ourselves that we have to get to it and to just go out and win. I think the hardest part [of the losses] was that we had a bye week so it had a chance to set on your mind and eat at you. I definitely think it helped. There was a lot of frustration on the players' minds. We were all very frustrated. I think taking the anger out on each other and hitting each other was best." While the late season wins helped the team to win a share of the Big East conference title and snag a spot in the Champs Sports bowl, Smith believes that the most important part of those wins was getting them for the senior class as their careers wind down. "It's just great to get those wins down the stretch for the seniors and the guys that are leaving," said Smith. "Just to go out and get wins for those guys is very important regardless of the titles. We wanted to win every game but obviously we didn't. To get a win for the seniors was great."
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