"Moxie" -- the ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage -- isn't a word that's used a great deal any more, but it perfectly fits both Stewart's folksy image and the situation WVU finds itself in as it prepares to travel to Colorado on Tuesday evening. The Mountaineers will be entering uncharted territory as it travels across two-thirds of the country to face the Buffaloes.
"This is going to be a heck of a challenge," Coach Stewart said of the game on Thursday. Stewart pointed to Colorado's athletic ability and experience on the defensive side of the football as his main points of concern. He added that in preparation for the game on Thursday his team has gotten back to fundamentals and spent a lot of practice time working on tackling.
"I'm anxious to watch the defense play against this Colorado team, and I am also anxious to see how the offense responds to the fumbles that we had in our last game," Stewart said. He hesitated to use the term swagger, but did say that he feels his team has regained some of its moxie --that word again -- in the past week and half.
The West Virginia defense practices against a fast paced offense every day, which may provide an edge entering Thursday's game. Colorado likes to play at a fast pace itself, and will often use a no-huddle offense to speed the pace of the game. Stewart didn't seem concerned about that, but did reiterate some of things his defense needs to do to be successful.
"We need to do a better job on first down and we need to get off our blocks and get to the football," Stewart said. From the ECU game, Stewart cited a 16-yard swing pass in which two West Virginia defenders missed open field tackles as an example of why the defense needs to be quicker to the ball.
Stewart had high praise for Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins, the son of Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins.
"Cody is fun to watch and he is an extension of his dad out there on the field, he is smart and athletic and will present a challenge for our defense," Stewart said.
On offense Stewart would like to do a couple things differently. Firstly, look for Wes Lyons to take more reps at receiver. Stewart said that Lyons has been performing well in practice and has earned the right for more playing time. Secondly, Stewart wants to run more plays on offense and get the ball in the hands of Noel Devine more often.
"We need to run more than 54 plays in a game and like I said at the start of the season, we want Noel to get about 15-20 carries a game and catch five passes out of the backfield," Stewart said.
Stewart also said that along with tackling drills, the team has put an emphasis on blocking in recent practices.
"The two things that I hope you see on Thursday is our defense getting off their blocks and getting to the ball and our tenacity blocking," Stewart said. "I don't even want out players to play cocky, but I do want them to play the game with confidence and I want them to play hard,"
Thursday will be a difficult challenge for a West Virginia team that had a disappointing outing in its first road game of the year. Colorado presents a lot of challenges, including two big and talented running backs and an experienced defensive front. West Virginia will need all of the moxie it can muster come Thursday, as this game will be a major test of the team's mental toughness.