Bill Stewart: "I'm not a genius. I'm not an innovator. I'm a leader."
I posted the following article on my hailwva.blogspot.com blog site on New Year's Eve 2007, only a couple of days before West Virginia was to take on heavily-favored Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. ESPN's unscientific poll of fans showed that more than 85 percent of them thought the Mountaineers were going down and down hard. The media reported turmoil, with the WVU players near anarchy after Rich Rodriguez left for The Big House in mid-December. Assistant coach Bill Stewart was given the unenviable task of guiding his team on an interim basis in an attempt to defeat the No. 4 Sooners.
The Mountaineers blew Oklahoma off the field to the tune of 48-28.
Monday, December 31, 2007
I understand that football at the college level is an abusive sport with few if any standard rules of etiquette. In the sense of toughness, the coaches must prepare the players for all aspects of the game, including steeling themselves from being intimidated. As well, throughout their careers the typical coach has often done little to keep his emotions in check. One prime example is Joe Paterno and his infamous rants. However, he in his fortysome years as the Penn State head man has earned the right to do as he pleases. In comparison, Rich, with regard to his mere fortysome years of life, should possibly quell any urges to act out in an explosive manner.
I believe Coach Rod's sideline antics are counterproductive in the sense that he is tearing down the players who, when times get tough, look to him for guidance and support. Evident to me was the fact that in our two losses this year and in the near major upset against Louisville, the Mountaineers played as if they were deer in the headlights, probably due to the unhealthy fear created by Rich and his 'in your face' tactics. This could be supported by the recent comment of Noel Devine in which he stated that Ol' Coach Rod won't be around to yell at them any more. That statement from someone on the front lines says much more than he said.
Interim head coach Bill Stewart reportedly deals with the players in a much more positive fashion. The veritable pall surrounding the vituperation of Rich Rodriguez has left for Ann Arbor. A weight has been lifted from the shoulders of the players, the ultratalented players who now only have to fight Oklahoma and not the twelfth man ironically in the form of their head coach.
The Mountaineers will be able to freely think and react, and they're going to need to. The word is out on the West Virginia spread. South Florida showed how WVU can be pinched in, taking away its speed by placing the game squarely in the middle of the field. Pittsburgh dictated the West Virginia play calling by shifting their defense around frentically. Oklahoma has seen the tapes of these two losses, and had success of their own with the two victories against Missouri's form of the spread.
Despite these challenges, the overriding factor football pundits are not considering is the maniacal emotional state of the Mountaineers and their ability to sustain it by everyone truly holding the rope, not out of fear of castigation but through genuinely positive reinforcement. I don't' know if we will win, but Oklahoma will be forced to go for it on the final play. I suggest you prepare to stay up after midnight.