"You set standards and expectations - and you hold them to it," Pruett said.
"You've got to get them to expect to win," Nehlen added. "If they're hoping, you've got a problem. A lot of coaches make a mistake and don't tell them you expect to win."
Pruett's mantra was to win championships. I remember Nehlen telling me about the 1982 upset of Oklahoma. He said he told his team if it stayed close for the first half, it would win. It did.
"I told them if they were down by no more than 10 at halftime," Nehlen recalled this week, "we'd win. I told them we'd be in better [physical] shape."
Pruett told his team, behind 38-8 at halftime of the 2001 GMAC Bowl, it would come back and win. It did, 64-61 in double overtime against East Carolina.
"Athletics are all about mind games to some degree," Nehlen said. "If you think you will, you probably will. If you think you can't, you probably won't be disappointed."
The former Mountaineer coach said great senior leadership helps. He said thorough preparation is vital. And he emphasized discipline.
"All these players now are strong," Nehlen said. "If you have good discipline as well, you can expect to win."
Maybe some of that is lacking with Nehlen's former team. There are certainly signs. Marshall is knocking on the door, but needs someone to kick it down.
Players on both teams, though, need that swagger, that somewhat elusive certainty. According to Pruett and Nehlen, that comes from hard work and preparation. It comes from respect. It comes from high expectations and accountability.
And all of that starts with head coaches.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvin...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.