MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- When West Virginia football coach Bill Stewart took the podium at his weekly news conference yesterday, it was obvious he wanted the questions to be aimed at his team's next opponent, the No. 8 Pitt Panthers (9-1, 5-0 Big East). The Mountaineers (7-3, 3-2) -- like Pitt -- will have an off week before the teams meet at 7 p.m. Nov. 27 at Mountaineer Field in the Backyard Brawl.
At that Stewart news conference, however, the media wasn't going to let bygones be bygones.
The first question -- and many subsequent questions -- centered around the controversial touchdown scored by Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead in the second quarter of the Bearcats' 24-21 victory Friday. The play, which tied the score, 14-14, was initially called a fumble by Pead and West Virginia recovery on the 1, before the replay official reversed the call and awarded Pead a touchdown.
"That ballgame is behind us," Stewart said, diplomatically. "It is over, it is in the books. And it was in Saturday's sports columns that it was 24-21, and that can't be changed. ... I got on the bus, I took my boxed lunch and did a lot of soul searching and thinking and I will let it go at that."
Stewart offered a moment of levity later in the news conference about the controversial call.
He was asked a question that began with, "A lot of times, when a player is on the goal line, [the officials] won't make a call because they are afraid to make the wrong one. ..."
Stewart responded, "I thought they made a great call. The guys on the field? Great call."
It served as an obvious jab at the replay official.
Stewart acknowledged yesterday that Pitt receiver Jonathan Baldwin, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound sophomore who was named the Big East offensive player of the week, possesses an extraordinary gift not too many receivers in college football have.
Stewart was asked if two weeks is enough time to devise a defensive game plan in an attempt to slow down Baldwin.
"Two years isn't enough," Stewart said. "The Baldwin youngster is special. We had a guy like that a few years ago named Chris Henry; he plays on Sundays now [for the Cincinnati Bengals]. That is who Mr. Baldwin reminds me of. ... He is one of those guys who just goes down the field, jumps and makes plays and [Pitt quarterback] Billy Stull is doing a great job getting the ball to him. It is going to be tough on our secondary."
Stewart was asked yesterday, after it was announced that the Pitt game would be played at 7 p.m. and be carried on ESPN2, if he had a preference as to what time the Backyard Brawl is played.
This much can be taken from his answer: Stewart, who has often said Pitt and West Virginia is one of college football's finest rivalries, doesn't care when or where Pitt and the Mountaineers play, just so they play every season.
"I don't care if it is at noon, 1, 3, 7, 10, I don't care, just so we play," Stewart said. "It can be at their place, our place, or at a parking lot somewhere in between, I don't care. Just so that we have a chance to play the Backyard Brawl, that's all I care about."
Colin Dunlap can be reached at email@example.com .