The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

November 10, 2010

An off week in name only for WVU coaches

MORGANTOWN — They call it an off week, this strange quirk in scheduling during which a football team does not play on a given weekend, but it is a misnomer.

Off infers a break in the work schedule, which was hardly the case for the West Virginia University coaches as they gathered in an effort to figure out why they had dropped consecutive games to Syracuse and Connecticut, why the offense wasn’t working, how they could possibly put the football on the ground an incredible seven times against UConn, why they can’t return kicks and why the defense is not taking the ball away from the other team enough.

Other than that, everything has just been great over at the Puskar Center.

It was head coach Bill Stewart who ordered the self-evaluation period to see why things were wrong, what could be done to make them right and to understand the role every player has on every play and whether he is capable of doing it.

Stewart would not say that this would lead to a major overhaul of a broken offense, but he strongly hinted that it would not.

He did that in a discussion of his quarterback, Geno Smith, who was asked to run more often against Connecticut and did so successfully, gaining 60 yards. That’s not the stuff Pat White was made of, but Geno Smith is not Pat White.

“Geno is a pretty good quarterback. He’s just young. He has a bright, bright future here with this offense,” Stewart said.

He then repeated it for emphasis.

“Geno has a bright, bright future with this offense. This is his offense. You can take that, any way want to take it. With this offense, Geno Smith will have a bright future. If I want to play in the wishbone, I don’t think he’ll have as good a future. If I put the spread in, it’s like trying to put a round peg in a square hole.”

To hear Stewart tell it, the self-evaluation was exhausting.

“It was Jeff Mullen (the offensive coordinator) and me, and we would put a play up,” Stewart said.

Then it would go something like this.

“Here’s the call, here’s the situation, can that end, can this guard, can this center, can these guy do what we’re asking them to do? Every play, every guy…that’s what we did. We found some things that were very beneficial to use. We weren’t that far off. We don’t fumble the ball, we win the game. We don’t hold the first play of overtime it’s first and goal at the 1.”

What Stewart was talking about there was the UConn game when on the first play of the overtime offensive lineman Matt Lindamood was called for holding on a play that went down to the 1-yard line and that Ryan Clarke fumbled when they got back to the 1, losing the ball.

“Now I could go get me a ball bat and hit Matt Lindamood in the back of the head, but I don’t want to do that because Matt’s a good boy and he didn’t mean to hold. I could take that same ball bat and bust Ryan Clarke in the shins with it, but I don’t think that’s the right way to approach it,” Stewart said.

He has his idea of what the right way is.

“Coach ’em tough. Coach ’em fair. Coach ’em hard. And what we’re asking them is not that difficult — protect the football,” Stewart said.

Stewart felt nothing was overlooked as they went through the offense, defense and special teams.

Certainly nothing should be, considering that West Virginia ranks seventh in scoring in the conference and hasn’t been able to win, even with an overpowering defense that has only one glaring area of deficiency and that being not taking the football away from the offense by causing fumbles.

West Virginia ranks seventh in turnover margin in the conference.

In the special teams game, they are fine in punt and kickoff coverage but last in returning both punts and kickoffs.

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

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