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September 22, 2010

WVU has several issues heading into LSU contest

MORGANTOWN — Despite the Big East’s record this year against BCS opponents and despite LSU’s dominance over teams coming into Tiger Stadium to play opponents in night games, West Virginia University plans to show up Saturday night for a football game that will launch them up the national ratings if they can pull off the upset.

What that West Virginia team will look like, however, is uncertain at this moment.

To begin with there is the soap opera surrounding cornerback Brandon Hogan, suspended indefinitely after being arrested for driving under the influence following the Marshall victory.

According to coach Bill Stewart, Hogan is in an evaluation program, but is practicing and will travel with the team to LSU.

“I’ll watch him work,” Stewart said. “He is undergoing the exact same formula as every student that comes before the student judicial affairs committee. I don’t know if he’ll play this week or next week. If he plays, he’ll have earned it.”

Stewart admitted he might have made a mistake last week in his handling of Hogan, who was seen on the sidelines, involving himself with teammates and giving them advice along the way.

“He asked me if he if he could be on the sidelines,” Stewart said. “He is part of the team. You don’t want to know what he had to do last week (as punishment). He was probably a little exuberant on the sideline. If I made any mistake it was in not asking him to stand back there, but I’m not sure he could do that.”

If Hogan is out, Stewart has a choice between Pat Miller, who was scorched for two long touchdowns by Maryland, or Brodrick Jenkins, another inexperienced player.

Hogan is not the only uncertainty. The offensive line, which really can’t afford to have any weakness in this game, may be without starting guard Josh Jenkins, who underwent a minor arthroscopic procedure on his right knee Tuesday morning.

“He’s back here and he’s groggy,” Stewart said. “We will wait until Thursday to determine if he can play.”

That would be a rapid, but not unheard of, return from such a minor operation.

Jenkins’ departure before halftime last week could have had something to do with a weak third-quarter from the Mountaineer offense, although Stewart believes that it can survive without him.

“When a guy goes down you pick up the saber and march on,” Stewart said.

Then there’s the case of Pat Lazear, the starting middle linebacker who has missed all three games with a bone bruise suffered in pre-season when accidentally leg-whipped by Robert Sands.

“He’s not in good shape right now but we may try to play him this week,” Stewart said. “He’s coming along.”

Lazear may have a hard time wresting his middle linebacker job from his fill-in, Anthony Leonard, who has 10 more starts at the position than Lazear and who leads the team in tackles.

Stewart does want to find a way to reverse a negative trend in penalties this week, the Mountaineers having committed three in their first game, four in their second and eight against Maryland.

“That means you are either not concentrating hard enough or you’re not giving enough effort and have got to cheat and hold some,” Stewart said. “If you ever want to really frost me, commit a personal foul. There’s two ways to get in my doghouse – walk out on a professor when he’s lecturing or commit a personal foul.”

Add the penalties to a penchant for fumbling and Stewart has some concerns, but doesn’t want to make too big a deal of it.

“I don’t want to be like a nagging parent,” he said. “You can drive you self crazy by overcoaching. They know. Tavon (Austin) knows to carry the ball high and tight. I’m not going to make them walk around campus carrying a football.”

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

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