The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

October 27, 2010

WVU eager to play again

MORGANTOWN — The situation would seem to be painfully obvious. With one loss in the Big East Conference, the path to the West Virginia Mountaineers’ ultimate goal, which is the conference championship, would seem to dictate that it cannot lose another game.

However, as obvious as that is, Coach Bill Stewart wants to hear none of it for he has been around long enough to know that anytime a team’s focus goes beyond its next opponent it is setting itself up for a letdown.

So it was when Colin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette began to ask Stewart a question based on changing objections to anticipate his team’s dire straits the coach interrupted.

“I don’t want to hear that,” Stewart said.

As Dunlap began to try and push on with his question, Stewart let him know that the direction was the wrong one at the moment.

 “If I go ‘la, la, la, la, la, will that upset you? I don’t want to hear that,” Stewart said, imitating a spoiled child.

“Round 3, Game 3,” Stewart continued, referring to the Mountaineers’ upcoming third Big East Conference game on Friday night at Connecticut, coming off the stunning upset loss to Syracuse. “When you leave that mind set you will get beat each and every time. This stuff, ‘if we win out …’ I know what the equation is and so do our guys. Game 3! If you stay the course, trust me, trust your coaches, play game 3 and we’ll have a chance.

“As I’ve said before, don’t worry about Game 13 until you take care of those first 12 games.”

Focus, you see, is everything and Stewart has preached from the moment the final gun went off in the 24-16 loss to Syracuse that was a matter of focus, not a matter of football.

He understands the feeling that resides behind his locker room doors at present.

“I got a locker room down there ready to bust the door down. Those guys are saying, ‘You know what, that was our trap game, he was right.’”

They are an eager bunch, eager to get back at it. When WVU lost earlier this season to LSU there was an off-week and that only served to make the team itchy, to want to get back out there and play and be unable to do so.     

This is a shortened week with a Friday night game coming up.

That’s fine with Stewart.

“I wish we could have played tonight,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back in the saddle. I want to play. I want to make amends. I want to right the ship and get the Mountaineers back winning.

“I know it’s what the seniors want to do. I know the team has practiced well.”

The seniors, he said, are the ones hurting the most.

“It kills them,” he said of the Syracuse loss. “This is the first senior class in how long that hasn’t gone out undefeated against Syracuse. But do you know what? They’ll lead. They’ll lead and the young guys will follow. But you have to make sure it’s Game 3.”

The Syracuse game can’t be taken back and the Pitt game is a long way down the road.

Stewart’s lesson is a simple one … play the next game only and it doesn’t matter whom it is against.

“We should play a faceless opponent every time we go out there. I don’t care what town they’re from, what league they’re from, just go get them. Just go play Mountaineer football,” Stewart said.

While that obviously is impossible, the point is well taken. If you treat Syracuse or a banged up Connecticut team the same way you would treat Pitt or LSU or Auburn, if you pay no attention to their records or their position in the standings, you will do exactly what Stewart is asking — “respect all, fear none”.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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