MORGANTOWN - Bruce let loose this week.
Bruce Irvin, West Virginia's outspoken defensive end who claims he's not much of a leader on the team because he's not been around as long as some of the other guys, clearly had a difficult time getting over the Syracuse loss.
''Seeing how those guys were more physical and outplayed us, that's not what West Virginia football is all about,'' Irvin said. ''We never get out-physicaled and pushed around. We got smacked in the face. Hopefully, we respond from it.''
There were ominous signs in practice leading up to that game, he said.
''We were looking slow. We had some guys who just tried to get through practice,'' Irvin said. ''And it caught up with us on national TV. We don't ever want to feel like that again. We've got to get these guys fired up to practice. It's coming to an end. Some people can't take practice every day. You just have to treat it like it's a game and be happy to play football, man. That's what I'm trying to get in these guys' heads.''
Irvin, who says if he sees something wrong, he'll say something, but being that he transferred into West Virginia for just his junior and senior seasons, he doesn't think it's his place to be called a leader, differing to guys like Najee Goode, Julian Miller, and Eain Smith on the WVU defense.
Still, he was clearly bothered by the way things went down at Syracuse, comparing it to the big bad wolf coming in and eating his porridge and blowing his house down - only his words were worse and mostly unprintable.
''I think that was a worse feeling than after the bowl game last year,'' he said. ''Syracuse? You never expected that. And I think when it really got put to us that we never really respected those guys. Those guys came out and smacked us in the mouth the first play, and it continued all the way through the game.''
West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel was asked how tough it was to watch the film of the Syracuse game.
''That's part of the deal,'' he said. ''You play bad. You better get better or you get another dose of it this week. They better understand you bring your 'A' game. People don't care what you've done last year or the year before. These kids are trying to make their own way. All of these kids that haven't made plays here and are living off the groups before them, they're going to have to make their own way.''
That bit about it potentially happening again is what really worries Irvin. It happened last year after a loss to Syracuse. West Virginia went on the road and lost to UConn.
''Hopefully, the guys who were here last year learned from it,'' he said. ''We're going to have to see Saturday. Guys like me, I know how I felt after that Syracuse loss, then to lose to UConn. I never want to feel like that again. That's why I stress to these guys that you have to practice fast because that's where it starts. Hopefully it'll translate over.''
West Virginia has beaten Rutgers 16 consecutive times. That means nothing to Irvin.
''You just can't overlook anybody,'' he said. ''They put in work over the whole summer and spring just like we did. They don't want to get embarrassed on TV. This is another televised game. I'm sure those guys are going to be fired up on their home field. They just came off a loss. They're trying to prove a point. I think we're both kinda in the same situation.
''We got embarrassed on national TV. The whole world saw us. We've been exposed basically, if you want to put it like that. The only people that can change it is us. You've just keep pounding it in those guys' heads. Hopefully, they buy into it and start wanting to change.
''Are we going step up to the plate, rise to the occasion, or like last year, are we going to let it slip through our hands again?''
Conference realignment means different things to different people. The seniors aren't concerned about it. They've got six games left. West Virginia's juniors and sophomores, because of a potential 27-month waiting period for leaving the Big East, might end up never playing a game in the Big 12.
And then there's WVU freshman running back Dustin Garrison, who is from Texas, right in the heart of Big 12 country. One way or another, it seems, he'll be playing closer to home a few times in a Mountaineers uniform.
''(My friends and family) are pretty excited about it and so am I,'' he said. ''It'll be great. My mom, as always, will enjoy watching my games.''
Garrison's mother and girlfriend showed up to watch Garrison and the Mountaineers play against LSU. Other than that, it's all been TV.
Still, even as he was one of the few players speaking on the subject early this week, he didn't get too caught up in it - and hasn't since this rumor mill started.
''Honestly, we don't pay too much attention to it,'' Garrison said. ''Coach Holgorsen does a great job keeping us focused on now. Whenever conference realignment comes, then we'll be worried about it. Right now, we're just playing to win the Big East.''
Garrison was told the same thing everyone else was when he signed up. No matter the conference, West Virginia, indeed, would still be playing football throughout his time, regardless of the conference.
Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org