MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A previously scheduled meeting forced West Virginia coach Bill Stewart to miss the Big East coaches’ conference call Monday morning, but Stewart made himself available to reporters to answer questions Monday afternoon via teleconference.
Stewart said his players are anxious to play another game after the Mountaineers’ 20-14 loss at 12th ranked LSU on Sept. 25.
“We need to get a game under our belts,” he said. “We need to play.”
And while West Virginia spent last weekend watching other teams play and pondering the opportunities lost at LSU, it was also a time for WVU’s walking wounded to get healthy. Stewart gave a thumbs-up to the health of tight end Tyler Urban, who has been out with an injured knee suffered against Coastal Carolina in the opener. He has since resumed practicing.
“Tyler Urban flew around (Sunday) in practice,” said Stewart. "He's chomping at the bit."
Defensive end Julian Miller has been slowed with a bad back but is improving, as is left guard Josh Jenkins, who injured his knee against Maryland and did not play at LSU. Stewart said Miller is not hurting nearly as bad as he was heading into the LSU game.
“He did play against LSU and we expect to get more play out of him this weekend,” said the coach.
Jenkins’ availability for UNLV will be based on how much he is able to do this week in practice, says Stewart, adding that the issue is a little more complicated by the fact that West Virginia has just five days to get ready for its conference opener against South Florida on Thursday night.
“I do believe he will be medically cleared for Saturday, but I will know more during practice this week,” said Stewart of Jenkins’ status. “We just need to be smart with that.”
Redshirt freshman Cole Bowers and senior Eric Jobe manned the two guard spots against LSU and will likely get the starting nod once again this Saturday if Jenkins can’t go.
The health and well being of running back Noel Devine, who tried to play through a painful bone bruise suffered early in the LSU game, is also a concern. Devine was held to a season-low 37 yards on 14 carries against the Tigers on Sept. 25 and was limited in practice last week. Stewart said Devine was in the training room for three treatment sessions on Monday.
“He’s doing a lot better,” said Stewart.
Devine has been bothered by a bone bruise underneath his big toe, the result of being tackled out of bounds when a guy fell on him and rolled up on his foot. Stewart anticipates Devine playing against the Rebels on Saturday, but if something should happen the coach said right now there are no plans of moving slot receivers Jock Sanders or Tavon Austin to running back.
“We’re going to run (Devine) enough to win the football game and if he can’t go then we have to go with Plan B,” Stewart said. “I feel good about (fullback) Ryan Clarke and Shawne Alston. We can always use motion to get the ball to Tavon and Jock, but right now there is no plan to move them into the backfield.”
Stewart will undoubtedly be asked more about the progress of Devine's foot during his Tuesday televised news conference.
The coach said the team took today off and will resume preparation for Saturday’s game against UNLV on Tuesday afternoon.Briefly: Stewart was asked Monday if he was considering limiting Devine’s carries with a conference game coming up just five days after Saturday’s game against UNLV. “We want to do whatever we need to do to win the (UNLV) football game,” he reiterated.
Last week, Stewart chose to put his teams in full pads and hit on Wednesday and Thursday. He said the time was spent working on fundamentals that included nine periods of individual work.
“We were hitting each other,” he said. “We had two big, big days of individuals. We have a lot of football to play and correct.”
The coach said the time off from the previous game has seemed like an eternity. “The fans think it’s tough on them, golly, we want to get back out there and play and make amends,” he said.
The Mountaineer Ticket Office announced late Monday afternoon that there are tickets still remaining for Saturday’s UNLV game. Tickets can be purchased by contacting the ticket office toll-free at 1-800-WVU GAME or by logging on to WVUGAME.com.
Saturday’s game will be televised on the Big East Network with the normal local markets carrying the telecast. Outside of West Virginia, the game will air on SNY-New York, Brighthouse in northern Florida, MASN in Baltimore, SNY-Connecticut, KVVU in Las Vegas and Cox-New England. The game will also be carried on ESPN3.com.
First-year coach Bobby Hauck is just 1-4 so far at UNLV, but he owns an 81-21 overall record in eight seasons as a collegiate coach.
This week West Virginia ranks eighth in total defense (249.2 ypg.), 10th in rushing defense (84.5 ypg.), 12th in scoring defense (14.5 ppg.) and 20th in pass defense (164.8 ypg.).
West Virginia’s best offensive category is time of possession, where the Mountaineers are ranked 19th this week holding the ball for an average of 32:16 per game. WVU is ranked 42nd in the country in passing efficiency.
West Virginia is still searching for the big scoring play that was once a staple of the Mountaineers’ high-powered offenses. In four games this year WVU’s longest scoring play from scrimmage is a 26-yard Geno Smith to Stedman Bailey pass against Maryland on Sept. 18. That remains the only scoring play covering more than 20 yards this season.
Overall, West Virginia’s offense has managed just 16 plays covering 20 yards or longer from the line of scrimmage, the longest being Noel Devine’s 39-yard run against Maryland. And the longest pass play from scrimmage was a 33-yard Smith to Tavon Austin hookup in the season opener against Coastal Carolina.