The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

October 12, 2009

Cashing in

WVU offense finding success on third down

MORGANTOWN — Considering the way things are going with America’s economic recovery, President Obama probably ought to give Bill Stewart a call.

Much like the average American, a year ago Stewart and his West Virginia Mountaineers had no purchasing power.

Come third down, they couldn’t buy a first down offensively or buy a stop on defense.

He realized this spring that it was time for drastic measures, so he went to the only bank that he was sure was solvent enough to solve his problems — his memory bank.

Somewhere back there, he knew, considering that he’d spent a lifetime in coaching in two countries and working with enough coaches to make up a football team’s full roster, there had to be an idea to call upon.

There was, and it was a doozy.

Everything he tried a year ago failed dismally. For example, he tried to use quarterback Jarrett Brown as a big back but saw rather quickly that he was in danger of getting his future quarterback maimed by running him head first into the line.

The answer wouldn’t be found in games or in strategy.

You want to make third and short against 11 defenders?

Prove in practice you can make it against 12.

Or 13.

Cub and Boy Scout honor, as Stewart would say.

“One day, I put 12 and 13 guys out there on defense and said, ‘We’re coming right here.’ Maybe that’s crazy, maybe that’s tough,” he said Sunday as he looked back upon Saturday’s 34-13 victory at Syracuse.

There was another day when he just decided to do it.

“We ran 46 plays, all powers and sweeps. Pound, pound, pound,” he said. “I wanted to see who was tough.”

And know what? He found out.

This year West Virginia is making 51 percent of all their third down attempts …. That’s more than half for the mathematically challenged.

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Bob Herzel
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