Keith's A Cat

A year ago against South Florida, WVU cornerback Keith Tandy was left in the lurch on several key plays that helped the Bulls earn a home win. This time around, Tandy performed well enough against USF to earn the Big East Conference's honors for defensive player of the week, much to the satisfaction of his head coach.

Tandy had a team-high 10 tackles against the Bulls on Thursday night, including a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. The junior also had an interception, his fourth in the Mountaineers' last three games.

It's all a testament to how much the Kentucky native has improved since that rough outing in Tampa a season ago, according to WVU coach Bill Stewart.

"The great thing about Keith Tandy is just how he's come along as a savvy ball player," Stewart said. "He knows when to jump up there and jam.

Keith Tandy
"He's flipping his hips, getting up there and getting inside leverage. He knows when he does and doesn't have help on the post. He gives cushions sometimes. He's just mixing things up."

Oddly enough, all four of Tandy's interceptions in recent weeks have come off tipped passes. It's a case of the cornerback being in the right place at the right time, but it also shows that work on tipped-ball drills is paying off.

Stewart credited Mountaineer cornerbacks coach David Lockwood for drilling his players to instill an innate ability to react quickly when passes are deflected.

"[Tandy] is just like a center fielder or a shortstop where it looks like he's always in a position where if he can't break on the ball, he's somewhere near the ball, so if it is tipped [he can make a play]," Stewart said.

"But these guys, there's 'backers tipping the ball, there's safeties tipping the ball. It's just so happened Keith has been the lucky recipient. Again, it just goes back to concentration, ball drills, and being in the right place at the right time."


The West Virginia offense has struggled to generate big plays on offense this season, particularly with its rushing attack.

That's a surprising fact considering the skill of running back Noel Devine, but Stewart said some close study of the film from his team's 20-6 win over USF on Thursday night -- a game in which the Mountaineers had only 79 yards on the ground on their 33 attempts -- indicated that things aren't all that far off.

"I came in here Saturday morning ... and I went through every play offensively and looked at every player on every play," Stewart recalled. "It took me awhile."

"[The Bulls] made open field tackles. They got us by a shoe here, hit us in the mouth there. They made tackles and they're fast. South Florida is a good football team. That is what it is. I'm very happy we came out with a win. We can always improve. Each and every coach can improve on all three sides of the ball. But I'm not in a panic mode by any means about what we did or did not do on offense."

The third-year WVU head coach didn't go too far initially, but further prodded, he said it reminded him of the early days of former coach Rich Rodriguez's tenure in Morgantown.

Stewart was then the Mountaineers' quarterbacks coach, and recalled seeing signs of the offensive success that was to come for the teams of 2005-07 (when the program won 11 games in each season) in the more moderately successful years that had come before.

"It goes back to when we were struggling way back when we put the spread in," Stewart said. "I know we used to talk as an offensive staff, and it was the old staff, when I was the quarterbacks coach, and we all just, to a guy, we always said, ‘It's one guy. Just an arm tackle here. If we just stay with it, stay with it, stay with it, good things are going to happen, because small plays become pretty good plays, and pretty good plays become big plays.'

"That's what I'm thinking right now. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but that's what I'm thinking, and I'm sticking with that."


In preparation for last week's win over USF, Stewart got a bit of a sneak peak of this Saturday's opponent, Syracuse.

That's because the head coach studied film of what the Orange had done offensively against the Bulls, trying to pick up some tips to use in last Thursday night's game. Stewart came away impressed, and early film study this week has reinforced those feelings -- even in the wake of SU's 45-14 loss at home against Pitt on Saturday.

"They are physical, Syracuse," Stewart said. "They are playing very, very hard. I've seen much, much, much improvement. I've been through all their special teams, and I'm into their offense now, watching that ... I will hit the defense as best I can this afternoon again, and then tomorrow morning."

"They've got talent ... I see a lot of veteran players. I see tough guys. I see the older guys helping young guys."

West Virginia's head coach said he saw signs of this year's Syracuse resurgence (the Orange began the season 4-1 before the Pitt loss, good enough for the program's best start since 1999) even last year, when Stewart's Mountaineers had a 27-0 lead by halftime of what was ultimately a 34-13 win.

"When we scored our 34th point, and I showed our players this already, I said, ‘Look how this Syracuse Orange is attacking us on the 34th point,'" Stewart said. "They knocked us almost back to the holder. "Let me tell you: [head coach] Doug Marrone has their attention. They're physical. They're playing hard. So there's a lot more than just one guy on offense, defense and special teams that worries me."

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