Football: Coach Stewart Teleconference


by Shannon McNamara for MSNsportsNET.com
October 11, 2009

Opening statement
We are moving on now to the next football game. We will go over the good and bad (from yesterday), and try to continue to get better as a football team.

We are very pleased with our win. We came out injury free. A few guys made me concerned, but everything seems to be well on schedule and injuries are not a factor.

We will clean up a few things today and have a nice practice. We will run the team hard tonight, and continue to work on turnover circuits on both sides of the ball.

To go into that venue yesterday, in such a tough place to play and with such a storied past, I am very pleased with the Mountaineers’ effort.

On yesterday’s efficiency
When you can control the ball 39:02, and run 74-49 plays, that is good. That doesn’t mean you are always going to win, but that certainly gives you a better chance and opportunity to win.
Had we not fumbled again trying to get more yardage on a first down conversion past mid-field, and laid the ball on the ground, we might have had more. I hate that. We work on that, and we’re going to continue working on that.
Other than that mistake, and a kick-off return here or there, I thought we played very well.

On opening games strong, and closing strong
(To aid in starting games stronger) We started last January with 6 a.m. workouts, and that continued in the spring. That was a motto we started way back – “Never hit your snooze button.” That was a problem in the past. I think (early mornings) help us start like we’re starting. Our players are coming out ready to go.

Now, on the flip side, we have to close the deal. That’s maturity, and that’s mental toughness. Those are the things this program prides itself on. We came close. You fumble here, you fumble there, and you don’t take a big play to the house, and the next thing you know you are in a battle.

I’m glad I substituted (quarterback) Geno Smith when I did, because I wanted to get the young guy, and some other youngsters, some reps. Maybe that was a factor as well.

On yesterday’s punting situations
(Punter Scott Kozlowski’s latitude on making calls) He does have some in certain situations, but yesterday was not one. The punt unit and I really devoured that part of the film today. At that point, he (Kozlowski) had no reign to throw the football.

We got the punts off and they fair caught them. (Syracuse) relied totally on blocks and didn’t give a concern to field position. Their No. 7 had fumbled two punts the first two games, so I took that chance to see if we could get one, but it didn’t work.

On team’s different offensive formations
(The little back formation) spreads the field and puts people on islands. It makes big guys play in space.

What happens is Noel (Devine) gets bottled up with nine-man fronts. We threw some deep balls, and did OK, but what we want to do is spread the field with little, fast guys - our speed unit. We want to see what they do. Are they going to load the box, play zone or play man? We’ll use it.

We’ll also put Shawne Alston in there at tailback when we put Ryan Clarke in at fullback. That’s something new – we wanted to see Alston run. (Alston) needs to play more; I wish I could get him in there. I wanted to see what he could do. His toughness impressed me.

On preparing for the Marshall game
I can’t imagine our team not being ready for Marshall. But, with these young minds today, our staff has met and needs to keep meeting to prepare to get the team ready.

I watched (running back) Darius Marshall on the highlights last night – wow. He runs behind his pads and he is tough. I saw the defense play well too with (defensive end) Albert McClellan. I couldn’t sleep last night. They got a fumble and scored yesterday; those highlights were very much an attention-getter.

This game isn’t BIG EAST, but it’s the team down south, and that’s enough said. I coached there very proudly in 1980, but I no longer work there. We better be ready to play, and take our state first before we start worrying about anything else. It’s big for me, and it’s a big game for our players.

On the defense getting off the field and third-down offensive conversions
We want to make sure that we have a balanced attack, and what really got us last year were short-yardage situations, not keeping the offense on the field and averaging 54 snaps per game. You can’t win like that. We won nine games, but to win more, we need to get better and stay on the field.

Conversely, we needed to get the defense off the field, and we worked on that over and over during the offseason. Some people might call that training by punishment, but I call it training by reward. You get three stops, you get off the field and you don’t have to run – that’s a reward. If you don’t get that, then you have to run. That’s one thing we do for our defense.

Offensively, we lined up in multiple short-yard situations, and I did that all spring in full pads, and in one day, we ran close to 46 isolations, off-powers and sweeps. We just pounded the ball clear across the board – I wanted to see who was tough. One day, I put 13 scout guys on the defensive side. I didn’t care.

You just have to get an attitude. Maybe that’s crazy and too demanding, but that’s what I did.

I really believe (the mental aspect) is more important than the physical play. I know that we have talent on this football team, and I know if you strain just an extra half-second longer, it may be the difference between an inch and a 10-yard gain. That’s why the game is so unique and so special. All it takes is you working just a little bit harder than the next guy.

On yesterday’s goal-line formations with the three fullbacks
I liked it, because it had great results.




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