Stew's Views: Marshall Review

A notebook of observations and reactions from head coach Bill Stewart following West Virginia's 27-3 win over Marshall

Third downs and the pace of the game were among the topics touched on by Bill Stewart in his day after review of West Virginia's 27-3 hammering of Marshall.

While West Virginia did a great deal right on defense, the Mountaineers still yielded a number of third down conversions to the Herd. Although several of those where of the third and one variety, Stewart was still not satisfied.

"We strive for perfection, and even though our third downs got better, we want to get them all. We were 8-13, but the defense still gave up seven of sixteen, and that's almost 50%. We have to get that better at that."

Two of the conversions were aided by West Virginia offside penalties, which turned third and medium situations into third and shorts. Marshall's third down calls, involving two and sometimes three tight ends in wingback blocking formations, put a lot of weight in front of the ball carrier, and were mostly successful. However, the Herd should not have gotten to the chance to use those on a couple of its drives, as WVU's lack of discipline gave MU vital free yardage.

"That is still a problem for us," said Stewart, who delivered a fiery lecture to the defenders on the sidelines after the second such infraction. "We will run for [those mistakes]. You just can't do that. They'll run for it and keep working on it. We coach them in practice to put their hand and behind the line and go on ball movement. We will continue to teach that an concentrate on watching the ball."

Stewart also noted that the new play clock rules are contributing to a decrease in the number of plays run in games. That, in turn, is affecting teams in developing an offensive rhythm.

"The clock is so fast that it's hard to get in the flow," he admitted "The time is going, and it's just a faster game. I'm an old offensive line coach, and I remember saying, ‘Oh I've gotta do 85 plays. Once at North Carolina we did 103. You just don't get that today. The TV and the advertisements are kind of taking the game away from the players, but I guess you have to have that.

"With more plays, you can try more things and set some plays up for later. But it's harder to do that now. In our second game, every call was a gut check. But we have to get into the flow. A lot of my peers are saying it's hard to get in the rhythm, too."

In previous seasons, a few early game play calls were often reserved to show the foe a different formation, or to see how it reacted to a different play. Then, off that reaction, later game plays could be crafted to take advantage of those responses. However, with the number of snaps down, the chances for such calls is reduced. (WVU had 70 offensive plays against the Herd.) As Stewart noted, every play call can become a "gut check". Whether the time decreases result in a season long trend of fewer plays and points remains to be seen, but for now teams are certainly feeling the effect.


Stewart feels prepared to enter the Big East after facing four teams with four distinct styles in non-conference play.

"We've found out things about us, especially in the road games. We found out you just can't wear the gold and blue [and win] in Game Two. Now I know we are going to get into a routine. Our goal will always be the Big East championship. And now it's time to put our helmets on and mouthpieces in and get after it. There is a lot of parity this year in the league.

* * *

While still looking for more physical play and better power blocking, Stewart believed the offensive line showed improvement against Marshall. The effort looked better as well.

* * *

WVU's quarterback play was again impressive.

"I thought Patrick handled game well except for the last play of the first half, but he was just trying to make something happen," Stewart noted. "He was 17 for 21. Offensively, I was pleased again with rushing totals. I wish we could have gotten the ball out there a couple more times in the passing game with Jarrett after he cam in for Patrick. Had he stepped up on the pass to Alric Arnett [that was intercepted] I think it would have been a score. But he'll learn from that."

* * *

The defensive performance ranged from very good to excellent, with cornerbacks Ellis Lankster and Brandon Hogan earning raves. The starting linebacking corps, intact for the first time for extended action, played to expectations, and the defensive line weathered the loss of Pat Liebig to play well.

"Defensively, we flew around and knocked the ball on the ground," Stewart observed. "We played with a passion. Keeping Darius Passmore to a long of 15 yards and keeping Cody Slate down, keeping them from the big play, was so big for us."

* * *

Extensive work was done Sunday on kickoff coverage, which went from outstanding at Colorado to bad versus the Herd. Stewart evaluated a couple of different problem areas.

"I don't think hang time on the kickoffs might have been as good as it had been, but [McAfee] got it 4-5 yards deep in the end zone, and they brought them out. We had a couple breakdowns on kickoff coverage. I was very displeased with that. I have to do a better job on that, and I promise we will work long and hard on that this week. Rutgers has tremendous return men, so we will get that corrected."

* * *

On the injury front, walk-on special teams warrior Jim Lewis was certainly missed. He broke a bone in his foot and played on it in Colorado. Pat Liebig, who had a couple of head hits over the past three weeks, sat out the Marshall game and is being reevaluated periodically. There is no timetable for his return. Pat White's thumb is not as bad as the original injury, also suffered at Colorado, and he should be good to go for Rutgers.

* * *

Brandon Hogan came very close to blocking Marshall's successful field goal attempt, which Stewart said may have played a factor in the Herd's miss later in the contest.

"He dipped and bent just like you teach it," Stewart noted.

Mountaineers Daily Top Stories