Stew's Views: Bullish Defense

While USF was dominated by Pittsburgh (to the tune of 41 points for the Panthers) on Saturday, the Bulls still boast two of the premier defensive ends in college football in George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul.

Selvie is a familiar foe to Stewart, as the two-time first-team All-American was part of the team that defeated the Mountaineers at Raymond James Stadium in 2007 -- one of only two losses that WVU would incur on its way to a Fiesta Bowl championship.

The game notes prepared by USF's sports information department features a pair of past quotes from Bill Stewart about the senior.

The first reads, "George Selvie is an All-American. He's probably the best rush end in the country. The guy just comes and comes and comes." The second boasts, "He is a one-man wrecking crew."

On his portion of the Big East coaches' teleconference Monday, it was clear that little has happened in the interim to change those opinions.

"I wish George Selvie would have left early," the West Virginia head coach said. "That rascal has been an absolute thorn in our side since he's been there. He's the greatest rush guy in the game today. He whirly-birds. He's like Batman out there -- he's everywhere."

The same game notes from South Florida claim that Selvie has been double- or triple-teamed on 117 of the 263 snaps he has played this season. Western Kentucky did so on 36 of 49 plays Selvie was in the game.

That has allowed for the emergence of fellow defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who Stewart said, like Selvie, has the talent to play professional football.

"You have to watch that you don't let them get a shot on you," he said. "I know they stumbled this week (in the loss to Pittsburgh), but they have a fine defense. They break on the ball and have speed. Those two guys are the leaders, and we're really going to have to watch where they are all day."

The memories of the Mountaineers' back-to-back losses to USF in 2006 and 2007 still linger in Stewart's mind and the head coach said that a similar fate could await his team if it fails to correct some of the errors it has committed in recent weeks.

"Two years ago, we went down there and laid an egg," Stewart said. "(We committed) turnovers and didn't play good. South Florida had a whole lot to do with that."

"We're going to go into a pit. It's a tough environment and a sell-out. I really respect (USF head coach) Jim Leavitt, his program and his coaches. We have to take our A game. We don't have a chance if we don't take care of the football and play the way we're supposed to play."


Several of West Virginia's foes this season have made hay offensively by using crossing patterns to great effect against the Mountaineers' 3-3-5 "odd stack" defense.

Connecticut was only the latest example of a trend that has stuck since Liberty receiver Mike Brown had a stellar day against WVU in both teams' season-opener. Much of the 378 yards thrown for by Cody Endres came on those routes -- most notably, the 88-yard catch and run of receiver Marcus Easley.

The soft spots in the middle of the field may be the biggest area of concern for Stewart and his defensive staff throughout the second half of the season, but the head coach said he is not one to concern himself much about the numbers.

"As long as we're stopping the run and our defense is keeping us in contention of every game, I don't worry too much about stats," Stewart said. "I do worry about long breaking runs. The guy (Easley) just hit a seam and made a great play, but I don't see it as near the disaster that others do."

On the final drive of the game, defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel called for some of the most aggressive blitz packages West Virginia had used all game long.

The results were largely positive, as Zac Cooper managed to get a rare sack of Endres and Sidney Glover hit the UConn quarterback just as he attempted to fire a fourth down pass on the Huskies' final play of the game, forcing the ball to flutter into the air and come down in the waiting arms of defensive lineman Chris Neild.

Stewart said that sort of aggressive play is one possible solution to the problem of opponents using those underneath patterns in the middle of the field to attack the WVU defense. He again emphasized that limiting the opponents' ability to run the ball was his team's top priority.

"I know we're a 3-3 stack -- that's who we are and what we are," he said. "We're going to stop the run first and foremost, then hopefully we can rally and break on the ball in the air."

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