- September 1, 2021
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The other day, the past met the future in the massively renovated Puskar Center at Mountaineer Field as West Virginia coach Neal Brown invited his Hall of Fame predecessor over to speak to his team. But if the presence of Don Nehlen awed the 2021 Mountaineers, they didn’t awe him nearly as much the new-look football facility awed Nehlen.
His address to the team was centered on mind over matter when it comes to winning.
“I talked to them about great teams and average teams and the way they think,” Nehlen said.
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He, of course, coached both during a Hall of Fame career that produced 149 West Virginia victories. And sometimes, it isn’t a team’s or coach’s ability that wins games, but simply the state of mind the team possesses.
“If you believe in yourself and your teammates, you can make anything happen,” Nehlen continued, with some examples up his sleeve that he was willing to share.
The game that came immediately to mind for him was the 1994 home meeting with the No. 17 Boston College Eagles. He was bringing an unranked Mountaineer team into that game, a 5-5 team that had had big wins in its previous two games against weaker opponents — Louisiana Tech, 52-16, and Temple, 55-17.
West Virginia had always played well against BC, even when Doug Flutie was there a decade earlier while winning the Heisman Trophy.
“We were down, 20-0, at the half,” Nehlen recalled, “But the kids came back to beat them, primarily because the kids thought they could.”
That state of mind well might have grown out of the previous season, when WVU was going against Boston College to complete an unexpected undefeated 1993 regular season.
“We were badly injured that year and went to BC on a short week,” Nehlen said. “We had just beaten Miami (who was No. 4 at the time while WVU was No. 9). We had a bunch of coaches down with the flu and we had a lot of bumps and bruises.”
Well, the Miami game had turned into a classic, with WVU trailing 14-10 midway through the fourth quarter before more than 70,000 crammed into Mountaineer Field at a far more rowdy time than we now have.
“We finally got the ball back, hadn’t done anything the whole dadgum game and took the ball down and scored. We huddled with the offense. Jake Kelchner was injured, so Darren Studstill was in there. He said to me, ‘Coach, we’re gonna go down and score.’ I told him, ‘No hurry, we only got a minute left.’”
Better story than reality, as West Virginia went down and scored on a 19-yard run by Robert Walker, but there was 6:08 left in the game. The defense held up, as did the Mountaineer state of mind that Nehlen was telling this year’s team about.
Linebacker Darrick Wiley put it this way at the time.
“At first, it was like: ‘Wow, we’re playing Miami.’ But after the first two or three hits, they were just another team.”
“Those kids just believed they were going to do it,” Nehlen told this year’s team.
Nehlen was as thrilled as the kids to be there as he got his first tour of the new, upgraded facilty, a mind-boggling journey into the world of today’s football.
He was impressed.
“I’ll say one thing, that facility over there is unbelievable,” Nehlen said. “It’s second to none in the country. It’s just beautiful …. classy.”
This meant a lot to Nehlen, for he coached his first game at Mountaineer Field on the day it opened, with John Denver being flown in by helicopter to sing “Country Roads” and Governor Rockefeller on hand.
But they opened it with the concrete barely dry and without the frills that are now there.
“I raised about $1.1 million to build that building (what is now the facility building),” Nehlen said. “But we didn’t have any money left to decorate. We put pictures up with dollar frames. It was unbelievable. My wife hung wallpaper in the building.”
The locker rooms weren’t finished, and players hung their clothes on clothes lines, Nehlen remembered.
Now they have a sleep room, the best equipment, games to play and even a barber shop.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The other day, the past met the future in the massively renovated Puskar Center at Mountaineer Field as West Virginia coach Neal B
[See the full post at: Nehlen Shares Importance Of Mindset In WVU Team Visit]
I like the way Brown has involved Nehlen
I agree. The more often you can bring in former coaches or players to motivate, the better,
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