Stew's Views: "Nothing To Lose" for U of L

In spite of (and perhaps because of) Louisville's recent struggles, WVU head coach Bill Stewart said that this Saturday's contest with the Cardinals at Milan Puskar Stadium is a classic "trap" game.

"We have a tough opponent coming in here with everything to gain and nothing to lose," Stewart said. "Our backs are against the wall, much like our last opponent [South Florida] was at their home arena. We will just have to see how hard we play this coming Saturday."

"I see a [U of L] team that can make plays. I saw them beat a very good Southern Miss team [25-23] that has beaten some people. Louisville is a dangerous, dangerous ball club coming in here."

Adding to the danger in facing the 3-5 Cardinals, who are 0-3 in Big East Conference play, is the many unknowns head coach Steve Kragthorpe's squad has entering this game week.

Any one of three quarterbacks -- Adam Froman, Justin Burke and Will Stein -- could wind up starting under center for Louisville. After missing last week's 21-13 victory over Arkansas State, star running back Victor Anderson could be back in the lineup.

Those uncertainties may make it harder for Stewart and his staff to put together a game plan to stop the Cards, but he said that was not his chief concern this week.

"I don't know who we are going to see at quarterback. I really don't know who we are going to see at running back. I really don't care," said the second-year coach. "I don't mean that in any kind of disrespectful way or manner whatsoever. I say that because the only thing I care about is the Mountaineers."

"We have to work on what we do and not so much what they do. I want to correct us and adjust to them. We watch film and draw up plays and do what they have done. If they surprise us like some teams have done, we will rally as best we can."

While the Cardinals' program has swooned as of late, Stewart said that he did not feel he would have trouble getting his players' total focus in the aftermath of their 30-19 loss to USF in Tampa last Friday.

"They are good, fast and they are still Louisville," he said. "If our players at West Virginia do not understand that, then shame on them, shame on our staff and shame on me for not conveying that enough."

"When you let your guard down, you are going to get beat. We did not let our guard down Friday night. We got out-athleted at a couple of positions and got beat. That happens. That is life."

"I think Louisville is going to come in here and be ready to play a heck of a football game. They had better, because we are going to be."

HEALTHIER THAN EXPECTED:

Stewart and his squad enter the stretch run of the season in mostly good health, which could only serve to help the Mountaineers as they face the conference's top two teams in the coming weeks.

That was one of the few results of the USF game that the head coach was pleased with.

"Injury-wise, I think we're going to be in pretty good shape unless something happens unforeseen this week," Stewart said.

"Our serious injuries are very, very minimal. Sidney Glover is nicked up a little bit, but everyone else seems ready to go."

That includes nose tackle Chris Neild, who had to leave the game at one point after Stewart said he stuck his feet in the ground and bent backwards without being knocked over on a play on which he was triple-teamed.

Neild bent so hard far (Stewart said that the back of Neild's helmet hit the ground before his body did) that his back began hurting him, but his head coach said that he was "fine" already and would be ready to go for Saturday afternoon's contest.

"That is a fine, tough man," Stewart said. "Chris Neild epitomizes Mountaineer football."

While linebacker Reed Williams is expected to continue to play the remainder of the season, Stewart admitted earlier in the week that the senior would not be at 100 percent for the rest of the season, as the Moorefield native's shoulders continue to cause him severe pain.

Stewart said he had shoulder issues of his own as a player at Fairmont State and emphasized the need for players to what their own bodies can tolerate.

"He is his own best doctor right now," the second-year coach said. "I know when I had my shoulders knocked down and separated, you just play. You figure out a way to suck it up and play. That is what he has done."

"When I was playing, I knew when I had to come out. When your arm goes up and you can't protect yourself or lift your arm, you come out of the game. As long as Reed can tolerate it and not hurt himself, we will let him be the judge of how long and when he plays. He has earned that right. He is that special."

COMPETING KICKERS:

While redshirt freshman Tyler Bitancurt took over the kickoff duties in the USF loss (after Josh Lider booted his first attempt out of bounds) and remained in that role for the duration of the contest, Stewart said that he would not necessarily take over that task on a full-time basis.

"The reason Josh Lider has kicked off is because I wanted to keep as much pressure off of Tyler Bitancurt [as possible] -- and the fact that Josh has not done a bad job," Stewart said. "Tyler has a stronger leg."

"That being said, they will both continue to kick. They are like any other position. There is no reason why punters and kickers can not compete like anyone else."

"Once Saturday gets here, I will decide who has had the best week. At this point, I would not hesitate to kick either. We just have to see if it's Bitancurt or Lider."


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