At Odds With Himself

In the wake of his team's loss to Syracuse on Saturday, WVU head coach Bill Stewart said the 19-14 home defeat was largely the result of his team not living by his mantra of "respect all, fear none." But on Monday morning, Stewart said his team did not disregard the possibility of a loss to the Orange, just before seemingly contradicting himself within the same breath.

"I don't think they overlooked Syracuse," said the Mountaineers' third-year coach on the weekly Big East coaches' teleconference. "I just don't think they thought Syracuse, after nine straight victories [by WVU in the series], was going to be a factor."

Of course, thinking a team is not "going to be a factor" would seem to be the very definition of "overlooking" said opponent.

Stewart's other comments seemed to again suggest that he felt as though his West Virginia team (5-2, 1-1) had thought it would have its way with the Orange.

"It was hopefully a great learning experience for our football team that you'd better respect all and fear none," Stewart said in his opening statement. "I can assure you that the Orange of Syracuse probably had more respect [from WVU players] when they left the stadium than when they arrived."

STRUGGLING IN STORRS:

Stewart's Mountaineers will hit the road this week for a nationally-televised Friday night contest at UConn, a team that was a sexy pick in the preseason to make a run at the Big East Conference championship.

Those predictions have not panned out, as the Huskies are the only team yet to win a league game at 0-2 in Big East play with losses to Rutgers (27-24) and Louisville (26-0).

Head coach Randy Edsall's squad sits at 3-4 overall, and things have gone from bad to worse since Edsall dismissed former starting quarterback Cody Endres from his program for an undisclosed violation of school policy.

Redshirt freshman Michael Box started under center against the Cardinals, but completed only four of his 12 passes for a mere 35 yards and an interception before leaving with an injury.

That left Zach Frazer, the team's former starter who had been relegated to the third-string, to take up the reigns. Frazer was 6-of-8 passing for 52 yards, but UConn was still shut out for the first time since 2005.

Add in the fact that West Virginia is a perfect 6-0 against the Huskies since Edsall's program joined the Big East for the 2004 season, and it would seem as though the Mountaineers might have reason to overlook another opponent. That is exactly the sentiment Stewart hopes to combat this week in practice.

"We played a team we hadn't lost to since 2001 -- I think that's nine straight [over Syracuse]," Stewart said. "That was corrected quickly. So I don't see any reason if we don't play to the best of our ability on Friday that the same thing won't happen again. That's all I see, and I hope our young people see that as well."

"We talked about it after the game. I was pretty stern. Last night, we talked about it again very briefly, because I'm not going to be a constant harp, but I did make an emphasis to let them know they'd better play each and every outing. That's how life is. We'll see how we handle the bump in the road, see if we come back or see if we hit another bump in the road."

NO BALLADS NEEDED:

After leading his team to a 15-point fourth quarter comeback against Marshall in only his second start as a college quarterback, WVU's Geno Smith was widely hailed -- and rightly so, considering he commandeered the offense on must-have scoring drives of 96 and 98 yards to push the game to overtime, where the Mountaineers won 24-21.

But Smith, a true sophomore, looked like a first-year starter for perhaps the first time this season in the Syracuse loss, throwing three costly interceptions. Two of those gave the Orange a short field that led to field goals, and the third came deep in SU territory, with West Virginia in position to score either a field goal or touchdown of its own.

It was, to be sure, a poor outing from the Miami, Fla., native. But further review of the game film led Smith's head coach to believe all the blame shouldn't be heaped upon the quarterback's young shoulders.

"He had some help in that, believe me," Stewart said. "Five sacks [allowed by WVU]. One interception was a hurried throw. One interception I thought was a penalty [on Syracuse] and I thought one interception, a veteran player didn't run the proper route. He shouldn't have thrown the ball, but the guy hung him out to dry, so to speak. But it's a great learning experience for our entire football team, not just Geno Smith."

So how should Smith approach this short week of practice, as for the first time in his brief career, he attempts to bounce back from what Stewart called "a rough day at the ranch" on Saturday?

"Learn from it and don't ever ignore it, but don't dwell on it," was Stewart's advice.

"He's a 19-year-old kid that's not perfect, and he just doesn't need to have any ballads written about him right now ... we're finding out that it takes more than one guy to win a football game. He knew that. He knows that. And he'll be fine. He's a nice young man who works hard. He'll learn from his mistakes, continue to hopefully polish the good things he does and go from there."


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