The threat of Hurricane Hanna possibly hitting the Southeast coast this weekend doesn’t worry coach Bill Stewart in preparing for West Virginia University’s football game Saturday at East Carolina so much as that school’s Pirates.

“That’s the last thing in my thoughts right now,” he said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “I grew up on the river in New Martinsville where it flooded some. If we’re going to play and need boats, then let’s go (chuckle).

“I don’t worry about the weather. We’ll play wherever they want to play, and we’ll play when they want to play. Our administration and their administration will get all that squared up, and we’ll make it work.”

Stewart said the No. 8-ranked Mountaineers worked with a wet ball some last week and probably will do the same before Saturday’s road game. He does think heavy rain would favor the offense, though ECU coach Skip Holtz said there are some who think it helps the defense.

East Carolina’s speed as well as developed talent concerns West Virginia most.

“This will be one of the fastest teams we’ll play all year,” Stewart said. “So we have to be on ‘A’ game as we do every week.

“(The Pirates) defeated a very fine Virginia Tech team (27-22), and it will be a hostile environment down there with a large and enthusiastic crowd as it should be. Their program has grown. Skip Holtz is a great coach, and he has a tremendous staff.”

Stewart said his players are very much aware of the challenge they face in Greenville. He emphasized that this is a veteran team that has improved over the last three years and that it has become very competitive under Holtz’s direction.

The Mountaineers will be trying to fix the flaws the coaches noted in last Saturday’s season-opening 48-21 victory over Villanova. They hope to show improvement and get into a better flow against ECU.

Villanova limited WVU to just 56 plays, or 31 fewer than the Wildcats’ 87.

Stewart praised Patrick Pinkney for rallying the Pirates from behind a 14-0 deficit in their upset of No. 17-ranked Virginia Tech.

“For that young man to rally his troops, that was very, very impressive,” he said.

“He’s a gamer. He’s a senior. Not only the quarterback (excelled) but the coach did a great job. And I was impressed by their running backs. Those guys can run around us and through us, and they can make us miss.

“If we run sideways, we’re in trouble. Their running backs are very impressive and their offensive line is so good. Defensively, they did a fine job against the Hokies, too. Their special teams are solid.”

Stewart doesn’t look for any wholesale changes by East Carolina. And he thinks last year’s 48-7 rout of the Pirates was uncharacteristic for them. He did not think they played as well as they did in other games, including the bowl victory over Boise State.

The Mountaineers are relatively injury-free, according to the head coach. They will be prepared to do whatever is required to move the ball and score points against the veteran ECU defense.

“We had to throw the ball more against Villanova because they loaded up the box,” Stewart reiterated. “We’ll be prepared to do what we have to do against East Carolina.”

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