Stew's Views: No Bull, USF Can Compete

While the Mountaineers' opponent this week comes in with little momentum after taking losses in consecutive games, Bill Stewart said his team will still face a formidable challenge on Friday night.

"They've handled us pretty well two of the last three outings, to be sure," said the West Virginia head coach during his Tuesday press conference. "We haven't done very well offensively against them. I hope we can take our ‘A' game, because we're going to need it."

South Florida's standout tandem of defensive ends -- George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul -- have been well-documented, but Stewart said that there was plenty of talent on the other side of the ball to make the Bulls a threat.

"They're a very good team and an excellent program," he said. "They're well-coached and have a lot of athleticism. I truly worry about their athletic ability on the offensive side of the ball with B.J. Daniels."

Indeed, the USF signal-caller has stepped up since regular starter Matt Grothe went down with a season-ending ACL injury in his team's win against Charleston Southern.

While Daniels led his team to an upset victory over Florida State in his first game as the starter, the team has since sputtered in losses to Cincinnati (34-17) and Pittsburgh (41-14).

Only once in four games with Daniels at quarterback have the Bulls managed to score more than 17 points, as they tallied 34 in a win at Syracuse.

Replacing the Big East Conference's all-time leader in total offense hasn't been an easy task, but despite Daniels' struggles, Stewart said he respects the freshman who pulled double duty as a member of the USF basketball team last season.

"B.J. Daniels is a Division I basketball player," he said. "Those guys are probably as good of athletes as there are in the world. If you can play major college basketball, you're special. He's going to give us fits as he has given everyone else. I just hope he doesn't get in a groove."

While some may have expected the USF offense to struggle in Grothe's absence, the true surprise has been the recent issues on a defense that allowed only an average of 6.75 points per game through the team's first four games.

In the Bulls' last three games, that same defense has allowed an average of 31.6 points per contest. In the team's blowout loss at Heinz Field this past Saturday, the unit failed to force the Panthers into a single punt. Pittsburgh scored on all five of its first half possessions and took control early.

Still, Stewart said USF is not to be taken lightly.

"South Florida is not out of the hunt," he said. "Our players had better have that mentality before they get on the plane."

BRYANT AWARD WATCH LIST:

Stewart acted as if he was surprised to learn that he was one of 20 coaches named to the watch list for the Paul "Bear" Bryant College Football Coach of the Year award on Monday.

"They must be talking about some other Stewart out west or something," the head coach said with a smile.

The second-year Mountaineer head man chose to deflect the praise to the same coaching staff he credited with making the proper adjustments to allow WVU to change its fortunes in the second half and come away with a 28-24 win over UConn.

"It's a real tribute to our staff," Stewart said. "I think we have the best sideline adjustment people in the game. I know that."

The coach reflected back to the criticism he and his staff faced through much of last season, saying that he chose to let that negativity go and instead opted to focus on the task at hand -- winning football games.

"I just bit my lip, jutted my jaw and bowed my back," Stewart said. "I did what I was raised to do as a little kid -- shut your mouth and go to work."

"Our staff has never quit believing. Our players at West Virginia rally around each other and believe in their coaches. That's the bottom line, or you wouldn't see the success we've had in the last year and a half in the second half that we do."

INJURY UPDATES:

Stewart addressed the status of linebacker Reed Williams and wide receiver Bradley Starks, saying that both should be able to play on Friday night.

"Reed Williams ran around well yesterday," the head coach said. "Bradley Starks is doing much, much better. His is just a little back aggravation. It's not a real injury. Reed is a game-time thing. He is good to go. For how long, I don't know."

One player Stewart would not address is defensive lineman Scooter Berry, who has been suspended indefinitely by the coach after being arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct.

The lineman also was dealing with physical issues -- he was still recovering from a shoulder injury sustained against East Carolina when he injured his leg against Marshall.

"He is in my doghouse," he said. "He is going to be in that doghouse. He's not even on the leash. When he gets to the leash, I'll let you know. Until that time, he is in the doghouse. That's where he's going to be."


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