Stewart says Mountaineers better be ready for UConn

West Virginia's Bill Stewart looks on against Auburn during the fourth quarter of a, NCAA college football game Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008, in Morgantown, W.Va. West Virginia won 34-17.

Coach Bill Stewart thinks his West Virginia University football team “had better be ready” if it expects to win Saturday’s Big East football game at Connecticut.

Speaking at his weekly Tuesday press conference in Puskar Center, the first-year head mentor left no doubt that he believes coach Randy Edsall will have his Huskies charged up to a peak pitch. They will be trying to avenge last year’s 66-21 drubbing in Morgantown.

UConn is 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the conference. West Virginia is 5-2 and is at the top of the standings with a 2-0 league log. This will be a showdown for first place.

While Stewart doesn’t think the score of the 2007 game should be a factor now because this is between different teams, he obviously suspects Edsall to keep reminding his players of that bad beating to motivate them.

Nineteen starters returned from last year’s squad which posted a 9-4 record and shared with WVU the Big East championship after Pitt, a 28-point underdog, shattered the Mountaineers’ hopes for a shot at the national championship, 13-9.

West Virginia has been installed by the oddsmakers as a slim four-point favorite against UConn, whose 11-game home winning streak in the nation’s fourth largest.

“If we stay healthy, we’ve got a chance,” Stewart said. “But we’d better be ready to play at 12 o’clock noon or No. 34 (Donald Brown) is going to run against us like we’ve never seen.”

Brown, a 5-10, 210-pound junior running back, is the nation’s leading rusher with a school-record 1,324 yards in just eight games. He has 14 touchdowns and is averaging 165.5 yards per game.

“Their defense is going to get after us like we’ve never seen,” Stewart said. “I have tremendous respect for (UConn coaches). We’d better be ready. We’d better be ready.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen Saturday. I haven’t figured it out yet. I don’t know which quarterback will start up there (Zach Frazer or Cody Endres). But with their style, it doesn’t matter who starts at quarterback.”

He thought the Huskies played “a Don Nehlen type of game” last Saturday in crushing Cincinnati 40-16, thanks to 20 points in the fourth quarter.

Endres completed 18 of 42 passes for 196 yards and no interceptions. He was forced into action because of Tyler Lorenzen’s September knee injury and the previous week’s apparent concussion to Frazer.

Brown ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns.

Stewart said. “I am at a loss right now because I’m having a hard time trying to figure out our team as we grow as a coaching staff with these players grow. I’m hoping that last year’s 66-21 win over Connecticut won’t be detrimental to our squad this year.

“I’m trying to figure out how not to let that happen (go from a good win to an unexpected loss, as WVU did in the 2007 regular-season finale).”

Stewart reiterated that the Huskies could be ready to play their best game of the year on Saturday.

He said the Mountaineers were “going to get after it” in a hard-hitting practice session outside on Tuesday evening. He’s expecting “a very physical game” at UConn.

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