Stew's View's: Day Nine

West Virginia head football coach Bill Stewart has stressed the importance of being able to hit while in practice, and now that the Mountaineers are practicing in pads he seems to be pleased with the level of physicality on display.

"We talk about physical football, and we hit that very hard," said Stewart after Monday's single practice. "We were very demanding. We talked among our team and staff, and that to be a championship-caliber team, you have to play physical football. We worked on short-yardage and goal-line situations. Much like we did Saturday, it was a full-padded practice and we hit.

"The physicalness - how you need to play if you want to be a champion," said Stewart. "We covered that over and over again. We can't be physical enough."

Just as it has been for the majority of fall camp, short yardage situations were on Stewart's mind during Monday's press conference.

"I think that's standard football [to work on short yardage situations]," said Stewart. "It's what we have to do. We have to get after it. We were very good last year [at] 43 percent. Where we weren't great was down in the lower numbers, third-and-one situations. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't near where a championship team is supposed to be. We won nine football games. You have to win more. We want to win more. You have to work at it. We are going to get more tough and better in short yard situations. That is our goal."

Another one of Stewart's goals is to get his offense into the red zone more. Getting the offense inside of the 30-yard line gives a much greater likelihood of scoring. That was on display in Saturday's scrimmage, when the offense had little problem racking up scores from close range.

"We need more offense in the red zone," admitted Stewart. "I keep going over it, and I script it every day. Our coaches do it, and they implement it. Our players know it. We used to call inside the 30 the red zone. Now, our guys are calling in the "score zone" once you get down to the goal line. They know what the mission is. It's blinders on, let's go. You know how good we were on defense in the red zone last year; what frustrates me is that we let the offenses get down there. We need to stop them on third down up near the 50-yard line. I want to keep them from getting down in the red zone."

After giving the players Sunday off, Monday was the team's first chance to correct and build on what was seen in Saturday's scrimmage.

"The defense did a good job against the offense and stopped them in third-and-two, third-and-three situations," said Stewart. "Yet, in goal line, the offense can't be stopped. We emphasized some of what we did Saturday: red zone pass defense and red zone scoring offense. That's been a really good battle, and I'm pleased how it is going. We gave the young guys that did not get many snaps on Saturday more opportunities. We cranked them up and had some fun. We had about a 25-play scrimmage and the young guys kicked some pressure-situation field goals at the end of practice. They looked pretty good."

The Mountaineers will have another two-a-day practice on Tuesday and will hold another scrimmage on Wednesday.


After reviewing tape of Saturday's scrimmage, Stewart had mixed reviews.

"We have some talent on this football team, but we have a long way to go. I was pleased, but I wasn't excited. I was happy the defense kept the offense on the ropes, but they didn't knock them out. We had them on the ropes, and we could have [knocked them out]. That frustrated me.

"Offensively, that tells you that we came back and fought. We have enough talent on this football team to do that against some opponents, but we play some pretty talented teams. If you don't do it week-in, week-out, it's just not going to happen on Saturdays. Therefore, what I saw Saturday was we had some nice individual efforts, and we had some playmakers, but I want someone to step up so I know what we can hang our hat on. What is going to carry us when it comes to crunch time? Right now, I don't know that. For three quarters, I thought I knew that, but then the offense came back. I'm pleased that we fought back, but I'm not ready to say we're a good football team just yet. I promise we're working on it.

* * *

Stewart did not name a second team quarterback yet, but noted that he would be prepared to do so by the end of Saturday's scrimmage. Freshman Geno Smith looked very poised for a true freshman during the previous Saturday's work, and avoided any glaring mistakes.

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