Jock Sanders, he of preseason incredulity over the media poll picking Pitt in a landslide to win the Big East, knew what he said then would be a story now. And it is, though not for the “Oh, no he didn’t!” angle you might expect.
Oh, Sanders did it. And he did it with a purpose. He really believed his team would win the league and didn’t agree with the margin in voting.
“People took it the wrong way,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they were offended. I heard they wrote something about it in Pittsburgh, but I wasn’t saying it that way. I was saying with this conference being so balanced, how can you give it to a team that lost to us and Cincinnati?
“That’s where I was coming from. I wasn’t trying to talk down to them. I’m not that type of person. And congrats to them for having the No. 1 spot for now.”
Sanders and the Mountaineers have a chance to play the Panthers Friday and “spoil what they’ve got at the top right now,” as Sanders said. Trust that means everything to the players on the 2007 team. And understand, too, that what Sanders did in Newport, R.I., that August afternoon was introduce the swagger and the ability to toe the line separating arrogance and ignorance.
It allowed players like Anthony Leonard to make bold and beautiful statements and illustrate how the Mountaineers have attempted to carry themselves this year.
“Why run away when they’re running toward you?” WVU linebacker Anthony Leonard said. “That’s our motto. We aren’t backing down, regardless if it’s Marshall, CMU, whoever. It doesn’t matter. We’re running toward you and if we can land the first blow, we’re landing the first blow.”
If nothing else, what Sanders did was initiate the 2010 team’s swagger and define the rules the Mountaineers have mostly followed through the ups and downs this season. He thinks it’s helped the team and especially recently as WVU has followed back-to-back losses with back-to-back wins to again emerge as conference title contenders.
“I say things on purpose and if there’s truth to it,” he said. “I don’t say stuff if there’s no truth to it. At the end of the day, I know what type of team we have and the way we’re capable of playing. The truth will show at the end.”