Keeping it simple

West Virginia’s Noel Devine (right) completes a running drill during Saturday’s season-opening practice. Teammate Jock Sanders (left) also takes part in the exercise.

Bill Stewart seemingly has a modest goal for West Virginia University’s football team in 2008 as the new head coach.

“I just want our guys to play as well and as hard as they can to represent this great university in the best manner in which they can,” he said before the Mountaineers went through Saturday’s first preseason practice session.

“That’s the only goal I want.

“Off the field and, most importantly, in the classroom, I don’t want a bunch of ding-dongs on this campus. I’d like to think that we’re something special. It’s a privilege and honor to play for the old Gold and Blue.

“It’s a privilege for me now to come to work.”

Stewart, a New Martinsville native, believes that no one has a right to go out onto the football field. It’s a privilege.

“And it’s the same way to go into a classroom or a chow hall or on High Street downtown,” he said.

“I want them to wear the old Gold and Blue on the field as well as off the field. I just want them to be good young men. That’s my big goal. On the field, it often comes down to that.”

Make no mistake, the Mountaineer mentor wants his charges to “play with a passion” as well as “a love for West Virginia University and a love for each other.” He has urged them to play “West Virginia football and hard.”

Stewart thinks people hold the flying WV in high esteem, and he wants his players to know that and to uphold all of the school’s tradition.

He said, “That’s very, very important.”

He certainly expects this year’s team to continue the success of the past three years when WVU enjoyed 11-victory seasons, capped by three of the biggest bowl wins in school history.

“We just have to go into every single game and respect all but fear none,” Stewart reasoned. “It all must start with the Villanova game on Aug. 30.”

While most folks figure that will be little more than a warm-up for WVU, he recalled that the Wildcats — who aren’t in the Big East football league — upset Rutgers in 2002 and last year led Maryland 10-7 before bowing.

“So we respect them,” Stewart stressed.

With that said, he will tell you that he firmly believes, whether West Virginia is playing at home or away, it will have a good shot to win in every game. Yes, all 12.

“It’s like I told our players that night in Arizona (before WVU upset No. 3 Oklahoma 48-28 in the Fiesta Bowl), if you know how to block ’em, tackle ’em and out-hustle ’em, you’ll win.

“Football is not a hard game. It is very simple. You don’t need plays. You need players that believe in team, team, team. Some guys are eliminated because they are individuals.”

Stewart insists that he will never let any individual supersede or take over his team. He is insisting that the team do things the right way.

“If you play hard, give everything you have to give, we’ll have a chance in every game,” he said. “But we also could get beat in every game if we don’t do that.”

He hastened to add, however, that “we’ve got a few bullets in our gun. We’ve got some guys that will hit the field this year who are pretty impressive. We’ve got tremendous speed.

“We’ve got tremendous talent. And, most importantly, we’ve got tremendous character. That’s what the people in West Virginia and throughout the country that watch us play will be most proud of.

“I don’t even hesitate one blink of an eye to not believe that.”

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