West Virginia beats Louisville, 17-9
West Virginia's Kent Richardson, left, celebrates with fans following a 17-9 win against Louisville yesterday in Morgantown.
West Virginia's Tyler Urban looks to carry the ball past Louisville's Chris Campa, right, during the fourth quarter of yesterday's game in Morgantown.
Louisville's Darius Ashley (8) carries the ball away from West Virginia's Brandon Hogan during the fourth quarter of yesterday's game in Morgantown.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- A bad win?
That is something you never will hear West Virginia coach Bill Stewart say.
An old-school guy like Stewart, who grew up when point differential meant little and wins served as the only barometer, can't understand the angst that surfaced yesterday after his Mountaineers (7-2, 3-1) earned a 17-9 victory against Louisville (3-6, 0-4) in a Big East Conference game at Mountaineer Field.
"It is a shame a Big East win is no longer good enough," said Stewart, 17-6 since taking over the program, the best 23-game start of any coach in the school's football history. "I guess you are supposed to win by overwhelming odds all the time."
He also had a message for those who like to put a dollar or two on his team: "If people don't like it, don't bet on us."
Bet on this: You could file West Virginia's victory yesterday in the "win-is-a-win-is-a-win" category.
Bet on this, too: Louisville ran onto the field in front of those 55,334 fans without much to lose. The Cardinals are mired in a season in which they have staggered, stuttered and sputtered in conference games, and there is considerable buzz about the employment status of coach Steve Kragthorpe.
Furthermore, they caught a West Virginia team that might have been looking ahead to the game Friday night at Cincinnati against one of the conference's heavyweights.
"Maybe we didn't get as up as we needed to, maybe our focus wasn't there and we just didn't come out the way we have to, I think that was it, we just don't go in with the focus that we need to right at the start of the game," said West Virginia's Jock Sanders, who rushed for 66 yards while filling in for tailback Noel Devine, who left with an ankle injury in the third quarter.
"We have to get up for every game. Maybe we played down a little bit and were sluggish because it was Louisville."
The Cardinals got a career-high 164 yards rushing from Darius Ashley and used walk-on quarterback Will Stein (in his second career start) to put a huge scare into West Virginia.
As a measure of how West Virginia's offense lacked punch yesterday, consider this: In his second consecutive start, Stein threw for more yards (100) than Mountaineers quarterback Jarrett Brown (94).
At halftime, West Virginia led, 7-6, with Sanders scoring late in the second quarter on an 8-yard pass play that was sandwiched between two field goals by Louisville's Chris Philpott.
West Virginia scored 10 points in the third quarter to provide the cushion it would need, getting a 9 yard run by Tavon Austin and a 42-yard field goal from Tyler Bitancurt. Louisville, which could not mount enough offensive continuity to score a touchdown, had to settle for another fourth quarter field goal.
Lost in the moans and groans from the West Virginia fans who felt the Mountaineers should have put a bigger thumping on Louisville, was a strong performance by a West Virginia defense that welcomed back lineman Scooter Berry from a suspension.
That defense allowed the Cardinals to move inside the Mountaineers' 35 four times but yielded only three field goals and recovered a fumble on the other.
West Virginia had its own troubles moving the ball, punting seven times, but the defense made things easier by forcing eight Louisville punts and limiting the Cardinals to five conversions on 17 third-down attempts.
"We found a way to win, but I know that is not going to appease you all because you want the sensationalism," Stewart said to reporters after the game. "I don't blame you, if I was a writer, I'd want the same thing. But I love a Big East win,
" I'll take it any day of the week. End of story, enough said."
NOTES -- A handful of West Virginia players sustained, or played with, minor injuries. According to trainer Dave Kerns, Brown sustained a minor right ankle sprain and Devine a left ankle sprain. Defensive back Sidney Glover played with a minor shoulder sprain that was previously injured, defensive lineman Chris Neild (right shoulder strain) played sparingly and defensive lineman Josh Taylor (back sprain) missed the game. "Everybody should progress through the week," Kerns said, which seemed to be an indication that all the players would be available for the Cincinnati game.
First Published November 8, 2009 12:00 am