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Stewart Deserves A Chance


September 22, 2008

MORGANTOWN - There has been considerable criticism of play-calling and clock management by Bill Stewart and his West Virginia University football coaching staff since last Thursday night's 17-14 overtime loss at Colorado.

Media and fans also have pointed to continued third- and fourth-down

failures in short-yardage situations, seemingly unnecessary personal-foul penalties, and other strange happenings which have raised fair questions in search of acceptable answers.

To me, all of this seems well and good following the Mountaineers' stunning 1-2 start to this 2008 season. Hopefully, the new coaching staff will get things turned around in time to salvage most, if not all, of the remaining nine regular-season games.

Of course, there were some things over which the coaches had no control. Those included Pat McAfee's missed 24-yard field goal kick which hit the left upright in the extra period, a failed fourth-and-inches from the Colorado 17 early in the fourth quarter, and Bradley Starks' underthrown pass to a wide-open Jock Sanders on a trick play.

That came with about eight minutes left in regulation time and probably would have given West Virginia the victory.

Then there had been linebacker Reed Williams' return of a pass interception only to be shortened by a 15-yard penalty. There probably were other mistakes which hurt WVU, just as there had been in the 24-3 loss at East Carolina on Sept. 6.

As I said, people have a right to question moves and decisions of coaches and even disagree with them. But to call for any coach's firing after just three games, as many people have, is absolutely ridiculous.

Stewart & Co. deserves some time to get the kinks worked out, especially on offense. Jeff Casteel and his defensive staff certainly turned things around on that side of the ball after Colorado jumped off to a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes.

And a lost fumble paved the way for the Buffaloes' second touchdown.

I don't know whether West Virginia fans generally are spoiled by the smashing success of the past three years or so.

But some of them obviously aren't being realistic in demanding the dismissal of Stewart and his assistants.

Apparently they have forgotten that Rich Rodriguez went 3-8 in 2001 after taking over the reins from retiring Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen. I can't recall anyone demanding that the Marion County native be fired.

In fact, Rodriguez was granted an extension to his contract at the end of that season. That was in response to his claim that he needed it to help in his recruiting efforts.

Rodriguez certainly went on to prove his mettle, and he was to get just about anything he asked in pay and facilities. Now he's 1-2 as the new head coach at the University of Michigan.

I haven't read where anyone is clamoring for his head.

U-M officials obviously are giving him time to put his program on firm footing.

Bill Stewart surely merits the same at West Virginia University.



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