West Virginia Notebook: Stewart refuses to focus on rumors

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Since the West Virginia football team dropped back-to-back Big East Conference games at home against Syracuse and then at Connecticut before having a week off, the questions directed at coach Bill Stewart have taken a decidedly more pointed tone.

With the Mountaineers (5-3, 1-2) carrying a two-game losing streak as they prepare to play host to Cincinnati (3-5, 1-2) at noon Saturday, Stewart was asked the most direct question yet as he held his weekly news conference Tuesday.

It went like this: "There seems to be an awful lot of interest these days on the Internet about your job security and future. Do you pay any attention to that?"

Stewart, who is 24-11 in his two-plus seasons at West Virginia and has had two nine-win seasons, brushed aside the question -- to a degree.

"It is on the Internet?" Stewart asked back, quizzically. "Are you talking about that message boards or what?"

Stewart paused for a moment and then continued.

"I don't blog, I don't know that," he said. "If I don't know it, it certainly hasn't bothered me. I just don't have that much time to give to that. I have no comment because I really don't know what you are saying. I am sure there are a lot of things being said. That's the right of Americans. We have the right to our opinion."

On the mend

Two key offensive playmakers -- Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros and West Virginia running back Noel Devine -- are fighting through injuries heading into Saturday's matchup.

Collaros, who sustained a knee injury in the fourth-quarter of the Bearcats' Oct. 22 loss against South Florida and missed the following week's game against Syracuse, would seem to be hampered much more than Devine, who has a nagging toe injury suffered Sept. 25 at LSU.

With both teams coming off an open week, both players used the down time in an effort to get healthy.

"We fully anticipate that he is going to play Saturday," Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said of Collaros. "We did fully anticipate he was going to play in the Syracuse game as well, but with getting him game-ready in practice, everyone's body responds differently.

"His knee is much better. ... We fully, fully anticipate him playing. He's done a great job of rehab."

Nonetheless, Stewart and the West Virginia staff will spend time in practice this week preparing for Collaros and Cincinnati backup quarterback Chazz Anderson.

Asked how difficult of a task it is to spend preparation time training for multiple quarterbacks, Stewart's response was succinct.

"It will make you sick," he said.

Tough task

With Jones, Cincinnati's first-year coach, being a former assistant at West Virginia under Rich Rodriguez -- he was the receivers coach in 2005-06 -- he somewhat understands the intricacy and complexity with having to combat the 3-3-5 defense led by Mountaineers defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel.

West Virginia is the only Division I-A defense this season that has not yielded more than 21 points in any of its games and is fourth in the nation in team defense, giving up just 249.9 yards per game.

Jones does understand, however, that what he faced in practice when he was a West Virginia offensive assistant will be a bit different than what he will see on Saturday.

"Having seen it in practice for 21/2 years, that helps," Jones admitted, before continuing hesitantly. "But at the end of the day, it comes down to putting your kids in the right and proper positions to be successful. But, also they've got to make the plays. ... It is going to be a great challenge because not only does the scheme challenge you, but so does the talent. They are extremely fast and they do a great job of disguising coverages."


Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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