WVU faces rest of journey with LSU lessons

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Nothing can change the past.

Nothing can alter what happened inside Tiger Stadium deep into Saturday night, with West Virginia losing to LSU, 20-14.

But, the logical questions now are these:

What did that loss do to the Mountaineers in the big picture, and where do they go from here?

West Virginia (3-1) must improve on offense after the performance against LSU. The unit gained just 177 yards, the fewest for a West Virginia team since Sept. 20, 2003, when the Mountaineers lost to Maryland.

The team doesn't get another chance until Oct. 9, when UNLV visits Mountaineer Field for the final non-conference tune-up before the season steers into Big East Conference play for good.

"A loss is never a good thing, but you learn from a loss," West Virginia senior defensive nose tackle Chris Neild said in the moments after the LSU defeat. "Things that we will learn from this loss will really help us out a lot for the rest of the season."

Perhaps what is paramount, the lesson most learned as West Virginia's final frantic effort faded into the deep Southern night is this: The Mountaineers can't continue to play from behind and expect to win the way they did against Marshall. In that game, Marshall led 21-6 early in the fourth quarter before West Virginia forced overtime and eventually won.

In Baton Rouge, the Tigers went up, 17-0, and wouldn't relent.

That is -- most likely -- the way the heavy portion of the remaining schedule will play out for this West Virginia team: Mistakes will be accentuated and the Big East Conference teams won't fritter away leads.

West Virginia will have to try to get its running game into gear. The team registered just 58 yards on 27 carries. Sure, the Tigers' swarming defense had a lot to do with it, as did a gimpy Noel Devine, who was limited with an injured toe. Devine had 14 carries for 37 yards.

The 58-yards rushing were the fewest by a West Virginia team since they gained 33 in 2001 against Virginia Tech.

"We will have to regroup," a sullen and brusque coach Bill Stewart said in the postgame news conference after the LSU loss. "We have a week to get healed up and then we will get ready to play UNLV at home, get ready for that Big East march."

A win against LSU would have been Stewart's most impressive victory since the 2008 Fiesta Bowl victory against Oklahoma when he was interim coach for departed Rich Rodriguez.

Instead, Stewart and the Mountaineers must stew over this one for a while -- they can easily look at all the numbers and know where they have to improve.

"We lost that game in every phase," Stewart said. "On offense, defense and special teams."

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


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