West Virginia showing swagger
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- It can't be plugged into a chart, doesn't show up in a column of statistics.
But it does exist, and people know it when they see it.
Bill Stewart was about to embark on his third full season as West Virginia football coach in late July when he was asked if he had made any mistakes in the first two years that he would rectify.
"Maybe I've had the leash a bit too tight," Stewart said softly. "Maybe I just need to loosen it up a little for these young men, allow their fire and personality to come out some more."
Let that swagger show.
And show it did, just a few weeks later at Big East football media day in Rhode Island. West Virginia receiver Jock Sanders and linebacker J.T. Thomas made it a point to trash talk Pitt, the preseason favorite to win the conference.
Now fast forward to the season opener last Saturday, a 31-0 victory against Coastal Carolina. Did that swagger, the extra vigor -- with Stewart's blessing -- carry on?
Sure looked like it when the Mountaineers ran onto the field and senior defensive back Brandon Hogan sprinted from the tunnel with a sledgehammer in his hands and swung it into the turf.
It was that sort of show, that kind of illustration, that Stewart spoke of when he promised to loosen the leash.
"I like the way they flew around, and I liked most everything I saw," Stewart said, a coy smile drawing across his face when asked of his team's return to more spirited behavior like what was exhibited under former coach Rich Rodriguez.
But, there was something that went a bit over the line, Stewart said, and he and his staff will have to monitor this swagger, make sure it doesn't take on too much a life of its own.
"I saw a little touchdown vaudeville act that I didn't like ... because if we have to kick off from the 15-yard line, after some disco moves, then I'm going to be a little tougher," Stewart said. "Let me tell you one thing, this bunch isn't running this arena. But we gave them a little [room for] excitement, yes.
"I like celebrations as long as it is instantaneous, as long as it isn't planned. Just don't get a 15-yard penalty, because if you do, you'll be on those stadium steps for a long time. I may do it in a game, I'm dead serious. I may say, 'go up through the aisle and [run the stadium steps].' "
For now, these Mountaineers will embrace this boastfulness, will let more hang out than in the past two seasons, all with the validation of Stewart -- as long as they don't take it too far.
"If that's letting swagger back, I've let it back," Stewart said. "But I can promise you, the tail is not going to wag this old dog."
NOTE -- West Virginia starting senior linebacker Pat Lazear, still healing from a leg injury during camp, has been ruled out of the Marshall game Friday, and starting junior tight end Tyler Urban (knee) is doubtful.
• Game: No. 23 West Virginia (1-0) vs. Marshall (0-1), 7 p.m.
• Where: Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, W.Va.
• TV: ESPN.
First Published September 9, 2010 12:00 am