On one hand the Mountaineers improved to 2-0 in the Big East Conference and 4-2 overall. On the other hand, the WVU offense, without Pat White, wasn't clicking on all cylinders. In a game that most Mountaineer fans felt should have had a much wider margin of victory, it's still difficult to argue with a victory. As the old saying goes, a win is a win. But the feeling was definitely off-kilter.
Coach Stewart complimented Syracuse on Sunday saying, "Coach Robinson and Syracuse played a hard fought game and we were fortunate to come away with a victory."
Syracuse is an improving team this year, no matter what you want to say about their recent downfall under Robinson. Just two weeks ago Syracuse gave Pittsburgh all they could handle, but were unable to finish the game off in the fourth quarter.
Stewart praised the play of his defense,which held Syracuse to just six points.
"The defense played tremendous football," Stewart said. The defense spent a lot of time on the field on Saturday, as Syracuse held the edge in time of possession with 35 minutes. With the amount of time they spent on the field, their play was impressive. Jeff Casteel's troops have certainly become the bright spot of the Mountaineers this year.
Stewart was also pleased with the play of the special teams and pointed to kicker Pat McAfee as one of the key players of the game. McAfee punted the ball well all game, including one wedge shot that WVU downed on the two-yard line. McAfee also reached a milestone in the game when he booted a 33-yard field goal in the second quarter to pass Steve Slaton as the all time leading scorer in West Virginia history.
Those were the bright spots of the game. It didn't take a football expert to tell that the offense just wasn't playing as well it can. It seemed disjointed at times and took some costly penalties that thwarted some drives. Fans booed in response to what they felt was poor play calling, but as Stewart pointed out it wasn't all the play calling.
"Fans see the end result and they see Jarrett dumping the ball off in the flat, but we called some three level flood routes and tried to hit Arnett on the first play of the game for a deep pass. A lot of the short passes were because Jarrett didn't see anything down field and was taking what the defense gave him," Stewart said.
Stewart was most frustrated about untimely penalties. The Mountaineers had eight total penalties for 69 yards. Those were the a result of poor execution at times, which is something that the Mountaineers will need to correct.
Jarrett Brown made just his second career start and managed the game well but he come played the game not at 100 percent. "He played a little dinged up," Stewart said.
Stewart also addressed the boos and how his team reacted to them.
"We just tell our players that we have passionate fans and they care about what we are doing which is a good thing."
Many fans have their opinions as to why the offense has struggled this year. Some believe it is just the natural growing pains of a new coaching staff and new philosophies. Others will say that its because of the loss of key players including the lead blocking of Owen Schmitt.The answer probably lies in some combination of all those reasons.
This much is for sure. The Mountaineers won on Saturday, and one mark of a good team is the ability to win even when it isn't playing its best. Yesterday, without Pat White, Reed Williams and a banged-up backup quarterback, the Mountaineers still found a way to win. When it comes down to it, that's what its all about.