The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

October 7, 2009

HERTZEL COLUMN: Stewart has decision to make against Syracuse

MORGANTOWN — In a way, West Virginia University’s Bill Stewart is presented with an interesting coaching situation when he travels to Syracuse to face the Orange.

Syracuse, you see, is a team with a two-tiered defense, so to speak.

On the one hand, the Orange have proven themselves too susceptible to the forward pass, so much so that they possess far and away the worst pass defense in the Big East Conference and among the five most porous pass defenses in the nation.

They have been scorched for 290 yards per game and 13 touchdowns in five games.

Seeing that, one would figure that you simply turn Jarrett Brown and his powerful arm loose on Saturday, flinging the ball to Jock Sanders, Alric Arnett, Bradley Starks and even the strangely absent Wes Lyons.

One would expect that filling the Carrier Dome, which on Saturday becomes Ernie Davis Legends Field, with footballs would produce enough points to win easily.

But there is another school of thought under which Stewart was brought up.

Back in the day, coaches often would open games against an opponent with a weakness by attacking their strength, which in Syracuse’s case is a rush defense that is fourth in the conference and gives up 91 yards a game, about 200 less yards than through the air.

While this theory would seem to counterproductive, when one considers that Stewart coaches the third leading rusher in the nation in Noel Devine, a runner of rare elusiveness who is coming off the finest game of his career with 220 yards on 22 carries against Colorado, that is an alternative that well could rock Syracuse.

Stewart knows there were some pretty good coaches who would take that approach.

“Back when I was coming up you had coaches like Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi who felt that way,” Stewart said. “You beat them at their game and you break their will and their heart.”

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Bob Herzel
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