Former LB Wiley reflects, encourages 2011 team to embrace atmosphere
Published: Thursday, September 22, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 22, 2011 23:09
When former West Virginia linebacker Grant Wiley looks back on his Mountaineer career, many things come to mind.
But not many things compare to a night game in Morgantown.
"I played in a lot of games in many different venues in the NFL and college," Wiley said. "Morgantown at night, especially with a highly ranked team coming in, is just electrifying."
Wiley, the school's leader in career tackles, played a vital role in the West Virginia team that upset then-No. 3 Virginia Tech at Mountaineer Field in 2003. That's the last time WVU has been able to beat a top-five team at home.
The No. 16 Mountaineers will have a chance to change that this weekend when No. 2 LSU comes into Milan Puskar Stadium.
"I had the sense before we even kicked the ball off that they weren't really even interested in being there," he said of the 2003 win. "They were overwhelmed by how hyped up our fans were and how tough of a place it is to play."
Wiley said WVU should embrace the chance to not only play such a highly ranked opponent, but also to get to beat them in front of its home crowd.
"You've got one of the top-five teams in the nation coming into your house and you have the chance to just demoralize them," he said. "And to do it in front of your crazy fans at West Virginia, where you know if you win they're going to try to tear the goal posts down. It's awesome."
The biggest part of being able to come away with an upset at home like the Mountaineers did over the No. 3 Hokies when Wiley played was just not worrying about how good everybody thought the other team was, according to Wiley.
When they stepped on the field, nobody cared about which players were the five-star recruits and who were possible Heisman candidates, it all came down to what actually happened on the field.
"As long as the players know what they have to focus in on and do their work to prepare, all that rankings stuff doesn't matter," Wiley said. "Just because a team is ranked high doesn't mean anything. They still have to execute just as much as we do."
Many WVU players on this team haven't gotten to play in big games like this one before. An opportunity like this one is something the players should cherish, because it's never a certainty they'll play a team ranked as highly as LSU again.
"You've just got to put it all out there like it's the last game you're ever going to play," Wiley said. "You always want to leave every ounce of blood, sweat and tears you had out on that field to win the game."
Another thing Wiley stressed was always important when he played in big games was to stay loose. He said he never wanted to be too uptight during the game or else there was a better chance to make a mistake.
"Trust your instincts and all the preparation you've done all week," he said. "Have fun with the crowd, do whatever you can to get them riled up.
"That was always fun for me when we were on defense, because there's nothing a team can do on offense if the WVU fans are making as much noise as they can."