Mountaineer head coach Bill Stewart reiterated those sentiments on Monday to the media and told his team the same thing following the 24-3 loss to East Carolina this weekend, saying, "Before you get to game 13 or even talk about playoffs you need to take care of game one, two, three and so on first."
West Virginia must not fall into the trap of letting one loss cause another. It has to use the ECU game as a learning tool, not as a pity party. The Mountaineers certainly aren't used to being dominated in the fashion that the Pirates did, so the team's reaction and response is somewhat uncharted territory.
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Along those lines, the attention of the coaching staff and players now shifts to Sept. 18, when the Mountaineers will travel to Boulder, Colorado for a Thursday night out of conference matchup with the Buffaloes of the Big XII. The good news coming out of the East Carolina game is that there were no significant injuries to report with the exception the normal bumps and bruises. Middle linebacker Reed Williams is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and will be a game time decision. Mortty Ivy was the recipient of a high-low combination block that tweaked his knee, but he said after the game that he was o.k.
"I just wanted to get checked out and make sure everything was fine," said Ivy, who returned to record nine tackles.
"Reed is still recovering and getting stronger and we are just waiting until he can go all cylinders and we will decide on Sept. 18 if he can play," Stewart said. In the meantime Williams will continue to practice with the team.
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Stewart reiterated that what happened in the game on Saturday had a lot to do with the play of East Carolina.
"We simply got beat by a better team on that day," he observed. He was impressed with the play of the defensive line of East Carolina, which gave the Mountaineer offensive line fits during the game. Stewart also stressed ball control as an issue on offense. East Carolina converted eight of 16 third downs compared to just three of 16 for WVU. If West Virginia plans to turn things around, that's a statistic they will have to improve upon on both sides of the ball.
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Stewart agreed with the suggestion that his team showed a lack of passion in the game. "It was frustrating to watch. We really just want our players to play hard and they need to play harder, but this team doesn't have any quit in them."
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Unfortunately for Stewart and his staff things won't get any easier for the next game. Stewart recognized Colorado and pointed out their size at running back and at quarterback. West Virginia had difficulty tackling East Carolina's hard-running offensive players, and will be working on that aspect of the game during its practice sessions this week. The coaching staff has begun to review film of Colorado and will dedicate all of today to prepare for the game.