Stew's Views: Devine When It Counts

Perhaps the most unenviable position in college football is that which UConn free safety Jerome Junior found himself in in the final minutes of his team's 28-24 loss to WVU: one-on-one with Noel Devine, needing to make a play to prevent a game-deciding touchdown.

Mountaineer head coach Bill Stewart said that when he watched running back Noel Devine's game-winning 56-yard touchdown run on film that it appeared that Junior had taken the proper angle to at least force the speedy junior out of bounds on the play.

But the head coach said that Devine has a funny way of making an angle that would be correct against any other running back into the wrong one against him.

"Our guys in practice don't take that angle anymore," Stewart said. "They go up about three yards because they know that Noel is so fast. When he hits that burst, he is just a jet."

"We left Noel the free safety to beat, and he beat him. He just put the jets on and just burst right by him. It was an unbelievable run."

After his 178-yard performance against the Huskies, Devine finds himself as the nation's third-leading rusher in terms of average yards per game (130.29). Only Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews (161.57) and Marshall running back Darius Marshall (136.00) are ahead of the WVU star.

If the Mountaineers continue to be successful, the junior could find himself in the midst of discussion as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate. The WVU head coach said that while he has always had tremendous physical gifts, the success Devine has had this season is a result of him being a better player mentally.

"He made a conscious effort, beginning last spring and continuing all summer, to watching film and getting better," Stewart said of Devine.

"He committed himself to listening to (running backs) coach (Chris) Beatty this summer," Stewart said of Devine. "With zone football, (it takes) patience to the hole and speed through the hole. The zone isn't like running out of the I-formation or belly football. The zone is a stretch play. It's a sideways play. You have to be patient."

"That is what he is doing so much better."


With the schedule a bit different than usual as WVU prepares to take on South Florida on Friday night, the Mountaineers will practice on Monday -- a day they normally have off.

One player who will not be taking the field for that session is receiver Bradley Starks, who Stewart said "just jammed his back" making a block against the Huskies. The head coach said the training staff had told him that Starks would be ready to go in time for practice on Tuesday.

Linebacker Reed Williams also continues to battle various bumps and bruises. The fifth-year senior was hit in the leg on one play and Stewart said a UConn played "rolled up on him a bit," causing some pain in that leg.

Still, the second-year coach said that Williams will play against the Bulls but, "is not going to be 100 percent."


In some ways, the modifications Stewart and offensive coordinator brought to the West Virginia offense when they took over in their respective roles before the 2008 season were brought about by what South Florida had done to the Mountaineers in previous years.

Time and time again, it seemed as though the Bulls had the answer for a WVU rushing game that had little trouble slicing and dicing its way through almost any other defense in the country.

Due to those struggles, which led to back-to-back losses to head coach Jim Leavitt and company in 2006 and 2007, Stewart decided that more balance needed to be brought to the Mountaineer arsenal.

"Because of the success South Florida had the last two years (before Stewart took over) and how they were shutting us down with their great defense, we told our players to just believe in us," he said.

"I think our football team really bought into our game plan. They think it's fun."

The head coach said his team would have to utilize its entire arsenal to deal with a USF defense he believes is still a tough match-up for West Virginia -- in spite of the fact that the Bulls come into the game off of back-to-back losses, giving up 34 points to Cincinnati and 41 points to Pittsburgh in the process.

"We are going to have to move the ball and move the pocket," Stewart said. "We can't let people get us in the cross-hairs. We will have to throw it deep, throw those over routes and move the ball around. You have to use motion and movement."

"I want to confuse South Florida. I don't want to sit there and let them get us in their sights. We have to move the pocket and use that stuff to our advantage."

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