The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

December 28, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN - WVU trying to avoid distractions

ORLANDO, Fla. — While here on a business trip that climaxes with tonight’s 6:30 p.m. Champs Sports Bowl meeting with North Carolina State, Bill Stewart has seen to it that his players  got a taste of the attractions available at this vacation wonderland rather than drinking in the distractions that literally are everywhere with this team.

There was a trip to Universal Studios and another to Sea World, which equals the entire number of hard practices the team had after arriving here to prepare for the game that could give the Mountaineers a 10-3 record. In fact, overall, considering final exams and the holidays, Stewart really didn’t push his team as hard as he could have and, as he has quite a bit these days, he became quite testy about it during the stay.

When it was noted North Carolina State practiced last Friday while his team romped through an amusement park, Stewart became openly upset.

“We practiced just what I needed to practice. I’m not debating about practices. If you want to talk about the bowl, we’ll talk about it,” he said. “Yesterday was a treat for the players for being at this bowl.”

Indeed it was for the ones who were there, which did not include starting center Joey Madsen, backup nose guard Josh Taylor and backup safety Eain Smith, each an academic casualty.

The grade results, of course, came on top of a dramatic, controversial coaching change which left Stewart as a lame duck for next season while his anointed successor worked on his staff, a staff that will be without at least two coaches — offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and offensive line coach Dave Johnson — who nonetheless are coaching in the bowl game.

Other offensive coaches go into the game with their futures unknown, which could well be defined as a distraction.

So there you were, Stewart getting edgy over questions about distractions even though there really wasn’t much else to talk about.

The bowl game itself has hardly captured anyone’s imagination. Ticket sales are weak, the coaching situation is occupying the thoughts of Mountaineer fans, and the fact that the secondary, too, is softened by the loss of cornerback Brandon Hogan to injury does nothing to increase interest.

Front and center, so to speak, is the offensive line situation. Madsen’s failure to make grades forces a shuffle up front that includes starting right guard Eric Jobe moving back to center while reserve Cole Bowers moves in at guard.

Stewart obviously is perturbed by the situation.

When he was asked about how Bowers might do starting in this game, after having started only twice all year, including a key game at LSU, Stewart was ready with his answer.

“LSU gave him great experience. Cole Bowers is a talented young man,” Stewart said, adding snidely, “I trust him. He got his grades.”

And then there was the question about how having two changes in the offensive line might change things for the offense or for quarterback Geno Smith.

“Nothing changes,” Stewart snapped. “It’s just like if a guy got

hurt on the first play of the game. Guys did not take care of their grades. Those that did take care of their grades are going to be playing in the football game.”

And so it is that the Mountaineers must try to make the grade without people who didn’t make their grades.

The truth is that this has been a most offensive offensive line for much of the year, rolling over no one all season. And when you hear Stewart talk about the N.C. State front, you wonder if it will be up to the task.

“Their defensive line is strong, physical, fast,” he said. “I’ve watched them knock the opposing ACC teams back into the backfield. The linebackers come downhill, just like ours do. The guy in the middle is very tough. They will be very difficult to run against.”

Stewart maintains he’s fine with Jobe at center.

“Jobe has prepped all year. He has two years of it,” he said, referring to the fact that he split time there last year with Madsen and has a number of starts at the position. “Eric Jobe will be our starting center, John Bashler will have a chance to get in there as well as Jeff Braun. Cole Bowers will start at guard with a chance for Bashler to get in there.

“We are just going to pick up the saber and march on.”

Jobe, who will be looking at the world between his legs again, is eager to pick up the saber.

“I am excited for the challenge to play center again. I started my career at center and played the position in past bowl games. It's the challenge that is in front of me so it looks like I will play my final game at WVU as the center,” he said.

Smith, at quarterback, admits there is something of an adjustment due to the change.

“Joey Madsen’s my guy,” he said. “But we have Eric Jobe and I’m pretty familiar with him. They alternate during practice. Jobe’s a pretty good center. We expect guys to play and step up. Cole has played some big games.”

Smith, like Stewart, is denying that there are any distractions in this offensive line situation.

“I don’t see it as distractions. Every man has to do his part.  I know Joey Madsen wanted to be here but he had some issues he had to deal with. We have some guys who are going to step up and it’s not going to be an issue at all,” Smith said.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
    He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.

    July 25, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Five major sports topics of interest to area fans

    Tom Hart, a widely known retired Morgantown High School administrator and coach, continues to excel as one of the nation’s top bowlers.
    However, he told me he faces knee-replacement surgery. So he’s going to find it necessary to give up bowling during a period of rehab. Hart has competed in an amazing total of 45 U.S. Bowling Congress tournaments during his outstanding career.

    July 25, 2014

  • LINDLEY COLUMN: Better police needed for college teams enticed to cheat

    Cheating has been part of college athletics probably for as long as people have bothered to keep score.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.

    July 24, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Five major sports topics of interest to area fans

    Tom Hart, a widely known retired Morgantown High School administrator and coach, continues to excel as one of the nation’s top bowlers.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, Tennessee finalize 2018 meeting

    West Virginia University and Tennessee have finalized their season-opening, Sept. 1, 2018, meeting in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
    Both teams will receive $2.5 million for the game and have a chance to earn up to $3.2 million with ticket incentives.
    Each team will buy 12,500 tickets and set aside 2,000 of its allotment for students.
    The game, played on the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, is being put on by the Charlotte Sports Federation.

    July 23, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos