Nov. 3, 2008
(12:27 p.m.): You’ve got to enjoy listening to West Virginia coach Bill Stewart on the weekly Big East coaches teleconference. The guy is 2 parts folksy, one part humble gentleman, one part football coach, and one part long, lost buddy you haven’t heard from in years. It’s always a treat listening to him talk about his football team and greeting the scribes when they dial in to ask him a question.
For most coaches, when a reporter’s name is called by the teleconference moderator to ask a question, it goes like this.
Reporter: “Hey coach, how are you?”
Coach: “Fine. How are you?”
Reporter: “Great. OK, my question is …”
With Stewart, it’s more like.
Reporter: “Hey Bill, how you doing?”
Stewart: “Hey (reporter’s name), how are you, my man? Whatcha know good? Great to meet you after the game the other day. Great story you wrote on us. Your mom doing good? What can I do for you?”
Flummoxed reporter: “Um …”
So, that’s always a good time. Today, he was talking about how his young defense has begun to play well. Especially after the Mountaineers, ranked No. 20 in this week’s AP poll, allowed Colorado to take a 14-0 first-quarter lead during the Buffalos 17-14 overtime win in September.
“That bunch just stepped up to the plate,” Stewart said. “The offense, we weren’t hitting on hardly any cylinders, let alone on all cylinders, and our defense stepped up to play. We’re 5 minutes into the game down 14-0. We said, ‘That’s it.’ They’ve been pretty resilient. With that defense, we’ve been very fortunate.”
The Mountaineers also have used that defense to win five-straight contests, not allowing more than 17 points in any of those games. Now, West Virginia, the only team in the Big East that’s undefeated in conference play, is ranked and will welcome UC into Morgantown next Saturday. Stewart wishes it wasn’t so – the ranking, not the game.
“The worst thing that happened for the West Virginia Mountaineers was the rankings came out and us being ranked,” Stewart said. “I wish we stayed back in the shadows. We have too many young guys starting on defense. We have eight freshmen and sophomores starting. That’s the last thing we need to hear.”