MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Most of the time, athletes are guarded in what they say, taking pains to ensure their words won't end up on an opposing team's bulletin board.
This isn't one of those times for the West Virginia football team because these Mountaineers don't care much for the opposition today.
And they don't mind if the Pitt Panthers know it.
West Virginia junior offensive tackle Don Barclay -- a Cranberry resident -- blew the shift from the usual public (and often contrived) lovefest between opponents away with a simple, two-word phrase: "It's Pitt."
With that, a different tone swept through Mountaineers' camp this week; a different feel and unusual temperature was apparent: There was an edge to these guys.
There was also anger and antagonism.
"Oh yeah," Barclay said of Pitt. "I have a hatred.
"It is a hated rivalry, no one likes each other, let's put it that way. There's a lot of personal stuff in this game."
So often, it is said that "what happens on the field stays on the field" and aggression, hostility and unfriendliness ceases when the final horn blares.
"With most other teams, when you are off the field, it is cool, you say 'hi' or whatever," Barclay said. "But, with them, with the Pitt guys, if you see them out, off the field somewhere, it is still like you are on the field. It is different with them."
Barclay stopped there and shook his head side to side, signifying there were zero chances at any friendly relationship.
This intensity has just heightened, but didn't start this week. It began in August.
At Big East preseason media day, West Virginia senior receiver Jock Sanders questioned why the pollsters selected Pitt as the Big East favorite. After all, it was a Pitt team that lost its final two regular-season games last season and was breaking in a new quarterback.
Monday, Sanders clarified things -- but he wasn't going to apologize.
"People took it the wrong way, and they were offended and everything," Sanders said. "I was just saying, with this conference being so balanced, how could you just give [the preseason No. 1 ranking] out to a team that lost to us and then lost to Cincinnati last year?
"I wasn't trying to down-talk them at all."
Sanders won't take back what he said, though, explaining, "You don't say stuff that doesn't have a truth to it."
Good chance plenty will be said today, and it likely won't wait until the ball is kicked off.
Last season at Mountaineer Field, in the moments before kickoff, the teams came together at midfield in a large scrum. There was a bit of pushing and some shoving. There was a whole lot of talking and pointing in a flash of about 100 bodies bubbling over with anticipation and dislike.
Could it happen again today?
"I don't want to say too much about that," said West Virginia senior linebacker Anthony Leonard, a McKeesport native. "Why run away, though? We're running towards you. We ain't backing down from nobody.
"Regardless of whether it is Marshall, whether it is CMU, it doesn't matter who. We are running towards you and, if we can land the first blow, we're going to land the first blow."
Colin Dunlap: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1459.