The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

September 2, 2009

Stewart: Journey begins Saturday

MORGANTOWN — Bill Stewart gathered his team around him on Monday as game week finally began.

“Saturday, at noon, our journey will begin,” Stewart said. “Remember, the first impression is the most lasting. What will your role be in it?”

That was the food for thought Stewart was putting forth before West Virginia University’s opener against Division I-AA Liberty, a team that was 10-2 last year but which suffered massive losses through graduation.

But they are not the only team that had losses. West Virginia, too, is trying to create a new identity itself without Patrick White at quarterback and with a rebuilt offensive line.

That makes it a journey into the unknown, and Stewart knows it.

“I do not know where this football team is,” he admitted as he began his Tuesday afternoon media conference.

He knows his team worked hard. He knows they had a physical camp, a hard-hitting camp.

But there is so much more.

“The barometer is the opponent,” he said.

While it is the same every year, the anticipation is hard to deal with.

“I want to see us play. The staff wants to see us play. The fans want to see us play. The players want to play,” he said.

They have hit each other, run routes against each other, but in the end that is teammate on teammate. It lacks the emotion that comes with a real game, the anxious moments in the tunnel waiting to enter the field, the filled stands, officials, scoreboard working, PA announcer on.

Stewart thought back to his own playing years, to his first game.

“There’s a rush that goes through you that’s unknown to man unless he has been in the arena,” he said.

So many questions, so few answers.

“I don’t know about Tavon Austin,” Stewart said, referring to his freshman wunderkind who has proved himself to be elusive and evasive in camp. “I don’t know if he’ll run the right way or the wrong way. I want to see Jarrett Brown. I want to see the offensive line. I want to see Ricky Kovatch.”

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