Narrow Focus

West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart offered several short answers in Sunday's conference with the media, and maintained a narrow focus on the upcoming game with Pitt.

Stewart, who was a freshman football player at WVU in 1970, didn't want to reminisce about his sole exposure to at least a part of the Backyard Brawl. He did allow that the Mountaineers defeated the Panther freshmen, but despite saying he remembered the varsity game "vividly" wouldn't expand on that much.

"It was a tough loss for the seniors," Stewart said of the game which the Mountaineers lost 36-35 after holding a 35-8 halftime lead. "But that was 40 years ago."

Stewart also headed off questions that hoped to address WVU's current positioning in the league and the ongoing results and improvements that stemmed from the evaluation of the team during its week off.

"We've won two games and we've got two to go," he said curtly. "I'm looking forward to Pitt and Pitt only."

Stewart did discuss Pitt's corps of receivers, which present challenges across the board. Wideouts Mike Shanahan and Jonathan Baldwin are both big, tall targets that catch the ball well. Baldwin leads the team with 42 catches for 677 yards and five scores, while Shanahan is a dependable target with 35 receptions for 481 yards and a TD.

"I think Shanahan is a great player – he's Tyler Urban's best friend," Stewart said. "Mike wasn't offered here at summer camp, which I couldn't understand. That was a big mistake. He is a great Pitt Panther, and would have been a great Mountaineer. Both of them worry me. Mike has made play after play. He's very dependable. They have a great receiving corps, and don't forget [Mike] Cruz at tight end. He catches the ball too."

" Pitt is still a heck of a football team. They have put up some pretty good numbers. I would think it will be a hard-hitting game, physical football game, because of the style of ball we both play. We have aggressive defenses and ball control types of offenses."


It should be noted that Stewart was not the head coach when Shanahan was passed over for an offer during summer camp at WVU. That occurred in June 2007. Stewart did attempt to sway Shanahan once he became head coach, but it was apparent that he was solidly committed with Pitt.

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Shawne Alston had seven carries against Louisville, but five of those came with fewer than five minutes remaining in the game. It appears, judging from WVU's use of him and from Stewart's comments, that the Mountaineers remain committed to getting the ball to Noel Devine for most of the game.

"Noel was nicked yesterday," Stewart said. "He came to me and said he could still run the wheel route. We plan to still keep giving him the ball."

Stewart noted that Devine and Alston combined fore nearly 100 yards against the Cardinals, but did not directly address the question concerning his use in anything other than a role as the "closer" – running the ball to kill the clock and seal games in the late going. Alston had just two carries, back-to-back in the second quarter, before his final minutes feature.

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