It's safe to say that Bill Stewart's inaugural game as West Virginia's head football coach was a deemed a success on Saturday.
The Mountaineers had little trouble disposing of Villanova and the new coach showed he's a man of his word by turning Heisman Trophy candidate Pat White loose in the 48-21 win.
Stewart has said all along that his quarterback would be using less of his legs and more of his arm in 2008. And after watching his signal caller set a Mountaineer Field record with five touchdown passes, and a personal bests for attempts (33) and completions (25), it's safe to say that Stew wasn't joshing.
But coach did admit afterward it was less of what he preached and more of what Villanova was doing on defense that forced WVU?to go to the air attack.
"If you put nine people in the box, we're going to throw the football," said Stewart, "that's the only thing I know how to do - I don't now how run it with nine men in the box - evidently I'm not that smart. So, if people are going to play nine down, we're going to throw the football. That's what we said we'd do and I told the lads I'd never lie to them, and that's what we did."
Many folks were probably happy to see the ball taking flight much more, and better yet going down field a little bit. But many of those same fans are probably wondering where all of the new offensive sets the coach promised were. And the coach had a simple and honest explanation for that as well, "I don't want to go out there show everything we have in the first football game," he said. "We wanted to go out there and play with what we thought was enough to win with and that's what we did."
That was probably a wise decision on the coach's part, considering the upstart Pirates from East Carolina are chomping at the bit to knock off another ranked team after beating Virginia Tech this past Saturday.
"We're going into a Hornets' nest, going into a Pirates den and we have to improve," Stewart said.
Despite the Mountaineers' solid effort on offense (354 yards), their defense wasn't quite as sharp in allowing its Championship Subdivision foe to rack up 399 total yards offense, something that has to be a concern heading to Greenville (N.C.).
"We need a little more effort from our guys in the open field,"?Stewart said of his teams' defense. "They need to keep listening to the coaches - run to the ball and to get to the ball. They need to find a way to get off the field themselves.
"I didn't think they played down hill as well as Jeff (Casteel) wanted them to, he wants them to attack more. And we missed some open field tackles, we just can't do that."
This week's standout on defense, Mortty Ivy, agreed. "It's always a test going down there (Greenville)," he said. "It's a different atmosphere, it's hot, it's very humid and we need to just go down there and be ready to play. Our defense needs to go down there and make some plays."
Ivy helped set up the Mountaineers' first touchdown of the game when he recovered a fumble raced 30 yards into the oppositions' territory. He also returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown in the second half.
Saturday's kickoff is slated for 4:30 p.m. at Dowdy-Ficklin Stadium. ESPN will televise the action.