Stew's Views: Coaching Through Mistakes

While the mistakes being made by his players may be frustrating at times, WVU's head coach said that he refuses to berate his charges and insists that coaches can only make things better by serving as teachers rather than disciplinarians.

"When I coached offensive line for all those years, I would hear receivers coaches yell, ‘Catch the ball,'" said Bill Stewart during Monday's Big East coaches' teleconference.

"That's not coaching. Tell them to catch the front cone of the ball, the small part at the point of the ball. Tell them how you want them to catch the ball, but don't just yell ‘Catch the ball.' That's just total harassment, and I'm not going to coach like that."

That doesn't mean that Stewart and the rest of his coaching staff won't be working to correct the errors that occurred in Thursday night's 35-24 win over Colorado.

Increasingly, there is a sense that while WVU is doing a lot of things well enough to suggest that it could be a very good team this year -- but at the same time, it is doing enough things wrong to make almost every game a battle.

"I'm pleased with our effort. I'm pleased very much with how hard we're playing and how hard we have guys straining to make plays," said the West Virginia head coach. "What frustrates me as the CEO of this football program is that we're too sloppy."

"That's frustrating as a coach and it's frustrating to our players. It seems like we're not closing the deal. The deal is 100 percent -- we've got guys at 88 percent, 92 percent, 95 percent."

Indeed, the margin for error is increasingly slim. The Mountaineers' six turnovers cost them dearly in their lone loss of the season, which came at Auburn two games ago. In this week's polls, WVU finds itself near the bottom of the lists of those receiving votes, while the Tigers have vaulted into the nation's top 20.

"I'm just getting mad right now because we're not hitting on all the cylinders I know we can hit on," Stewart said. "We're not finishing. It all starts in the mind. You've got to know you're going to get hit. You've got to know they're going to try to tomahawk at it and strip it out."

"I don't know if our players look at it and think, ‘Gee whiz, if we had closed it out down there (at Auburn), maybe we'd be No. 17 right now.'"

The second-year coach emphasized that looking back at that game does the team no good as it prepares to open up conference play this weekend when it travels to Syracuse.

Instead, the coaching staff will go back to work this week and try to correct the errors that have characterized the team's play in the first four weeks of the season.

"We're a third of the way through the season and happy to be 3-1, but we need to be a little more polished in our attack," Stewart said. "We're not going to change. We're going to be aggressive in all three phases of the game, but we need to polish it up."


If anyone knows what SU head coach Doug Marrone is going through, it is Stewart. Only one season ago, WVU was going through a change of its own in terms of coaching staffs.

The work that the new Orange coach has done thus far has impressed his counterpart in Morgantown.

"You can see them gelling more every game," Stewart said. "I credit Doug and his staff for what they're doing. They're doing a great job of it. To me, they're more ahead of the curve this year at this time as compared to where we were last year at this time."

While the 2-3 overall record Syracuse sports at this point may not seem all that impressive, the team has made a marked improvement in many areas and has been quite competitive in at least two of its three losses.

The Orange took Minnesota to overtime before falling 23-20 in their season opener at the Carrier Dome. After a 28-7 loss at then-No. 7 Penn State, SU reeled off back-to-back wins over Northwestern and Maine before falling 34-20 this past weekend in its Big East opener against South Florida.

Marrone's squad is taking plenty of time to enjoy the friendly confines of home in the early season. Saturday afternoon's contest will be the fifth home game of the season for Syracuse and the fourth matchup of what will be a six-game home stand.

That time at home may be helping things come together faster than they otherwise would have for the Orange, which Stewart called "a very much improved, physical and very talented team."

"They have a tremendous quarterback in Greg Paulus," said the Mountaineers' head coach. "They are starting to get it clicking. I watched film yesterday, all morning. I watched their special teams from last year and this year, and I've got a headache."

"It's a normal preparation, but we're going to have to be ready to see things we haven't seen in the last three or four years from many of our opponents."

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