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October 5, 2010

Resting up

Week off not perfect, but working

MORGANTOWN — The last thing West Virginia needed after losing a difficult decision to nationally-ranked LSU was a week off, even if the Mountaineers were banged  up badly, but that was the hand they were dealt.

In a more perfect world, the week off would have come this week, when they are scheduled to play UNLV at home at 3:30 p.m., as just five days later they must jump into Big East play by hosting a tough University of South Florida team.

“It would be nice to have a week off before we go into league play,” Coach Bill Stewart admitted, “but we need to play after a loss. It seems like an eternity. We want to get back on the field and make amends.”

The Mountaineers should be in decent physical shape, although Stewart did not give a guarantee that running back Noel Devine, the top offensive threat for the Mountaineers, would be at full go.

Devine injured the big toe on his right foot when tackled on the sideline at LSU. He suffered a bone bruise that was painful and that obviously limited him as he gained only 36 yards in the 20-14 loss.

Devine is practicing and Stewart said he is “doing a lot better”, but it is obvious that he is not fully healed as of yet.

On Monday, Devine underwent three treatments on the injury.

 “He did not do as much last week as he wanted or as we wanted,” Stewart admitted. “I anticipate he will play Saturday and play a lot. We will run him enough to win this football game. If not, we will go to Plan B.”

On the surface one would expect with two weeks to prepare, Stewart would have prepared either slot receiver Jock Sanders to fill in if Devine could not go or his projected replacement next year, Tavon Austin, who also is playing the slot, but that is not the case.

Plan B is to use fullback Ryan Clark there or backups Trey Johnson or Shawn Alston and use a lot of fullback Matt Lindamood in a blocking role.

“We mentioned (Sanders or Austin) as a possibility,” Stewart admitted, “but I think we have enough to get through [if Devine can’t play or is injured again]. But we will not move No. 9 (Sanders) or 1 (Austin) back there full time.”

Stewart wants to get Devine work this week before the conference opener if possible.

“I feel good about Plan B, but we need to win this football game and Noel needs work,” Stewart said.

It’s also uncertain if starting offensive left guard Josh Jenkins will be able to play. He underwent an arthroscopic procedure on a knee two weeks ago and is back practicing, but there is that conference opener lingering in the not-so-distant future.

“He probably will be ready but we have that conference game five days later,” Stewart said. “I believe he’ll be medically cleared by Saturday.”

But the far more important game is the South Florida game and he would like a fresh Jenkins for that game rather than one whose knee is stiffening on him from having played less than a week earlier.

Tight end Tyler Urban, who has not played since the opener, seems ready to return to the lineup this week, too.

While UNLV is 1-3, Stewart warns that it is a dangerous opponent.

“This is not any fly-by-night operation coming in here,” he said. “They played three nationally ranked teams.”

E-mail Bob Hertzel at

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