WVU-Pitt: Stewart and Mullen's Final Exam

Frank AhrensSenior Writer INovember 23, 2008

Okay, Coach Stewart: This is what you’ve waited for.

It's finals week coming up and this is the biggest exam of your career -- one you've been studying for for nearly a year.

This is why you did what you did this whole season. This is why you hired Jeff Mullen as offensive coordinator to diversify the offense.

This is why you took the ball out of Pat White’s hands running this season.

This is why you said to anyone who would listen in the offseason: “If you put eight or nine guys in the box to try to stop the run, I’m going to throw the ball.”

Because that’s exactly what Pitt did last December, and it did stop the run. It also stopped WVU’s path to the national championship game, spoiling a once-in-a-generation chance.

We will see on Friday at noon, and an ABC audience will, too, if you and Mullen will be the Stewart and Mullen of the second halves of the UConn and Auburn games and much of the Louisville game, or if you will be the Rich Rodriguez and Calvin Magee of last year’s Pitt game, either too stubborn or too panicked or too incompetent to adjust your game plan.

Possibly, the Louisville game -- the 10th game of the season -- was the first in which WVU played a complete game and with the new hybrid run-and-pass-and-still-zone-block offense that Mullen and Stewart have finally settled on.

In the 10th game.

The first game, the 48-21 win over Villanova, was not WVU, not with Pat White throwing five touchdowns and running for none.

Nor was the 10-for-15 for 43 yards passing performance of the 17-14 Colorado loss, in which Mullen and Stewart tried to turn back the clock to 2007 but forgot they didn’t have something they had in 2007: Owen Schmitt.

Against Louisville, WVU still couldn’t effectively convert short yardage on third down, but mixed big pass plays and big running plays effectively.

Maybe, after 10 games, the offense is worked out.

On Friday, WVU fans will be grading your exams, coaches Stewart and Mullen.