Jones’ Comments Mirror Stewart’s Recent Ones
MORGANTOWN – He spoke of adversity, of faith being tested, of winning being expected, of doing the small things and having them add up to big things.
West Virginia coach Bill Stewart?
No, it was Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, whose team is stumbling mightily in his first season at the helm.
”We’re going through some things that are uncharted waters right now for our coaches and our players,” Jones said. ”Our faith is being tested. You know what? Through adversity we’ll be stronger. We’re going to be fine. We’re going to do this the right way. We’re going to have the right mentality.”
There’s some familiarity there for Mountaineers fans. They’ve heard a lot of the same stuff from the embattled Stewart, who was somewhat defiant, again, at the end of his postgame words, leaving with ”one pulse, one team, one heartbeat. See you all later.”
Back to Jones, whose two-time defending league champion program is 3-6 overall and 1-3 in the Big East.
”There’s only two things you can do,” Jones said. ”You can turn back, or you can come in with the mentality to work. No coaches are used to this. No players are used to this. Winning is what’s expected here. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. We will win when we deserve to win. When you can do the right things and get off the field on third down, when you can have third-down conversions, when you can take care of the football, all those little things add up to big things.”
Cincinnati was 0-for-12 on third-down conversion chances Saturday. West Virginia was 7 of 16. The Mountaineers won by 27.
”Defensively, West Virginia did a great job on first down,” Jones said. ”We could not possess the ball. It is all about first down and then possessing the ball on third down. We weren’t able to do that.”
Mullen Changes Little
Offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen said very little, if anything changed from his standpoint between what he did against Syracuse, Connecticut, and Saturday against Cincinnati.
Yet, the Mountaineers scored 37 points.
”Again,” Mullen said. ”We just continue to try and take what the defense gives us. When you face a certain defense that gives you the flat, you try and take the flat. When you face a certain defense that opens the middle of the defense, you try and take the middle of the field.”
Mullen’s offense was able to build a big lead it was 30-3 at halftime and quarterback Geno Smith had already gunned four touchdown passes. The idea from there is to play keep away.
”When you face arguably the best offense in our league, a team that can score in the drop of a hat, if we can maintain the clock and grind it out (we will),” he said.
WVU had the ball for 20 of the second half’s 30 minutes.
”We were behind all game and that’s a very difficult team to come from behind and win, especially here at Mountaineer Field,” Jones said.
Jock Nears a Record
West Virginia slot receiver Jock Sanders admitted he might have gotten caught up in a media-hyped record chase last season when he was near the team’s single-season mark of 77.
He wound up with 72.
With his six catches for 95 yards (and two touchdowns) Saturday, Sanders has 189 in his career and needs just three to pass David Saunders for the top spot on the school’s all-time receptions leaders list, not that he’s allowed himself to get caught up in it this season.
”What’s the record?” Sanders asked. ”Seriously, I didn’t even know. Last year, I was close to 79 or whatever, but I’m just going out and trying to play. Playing for my team, and playing for my family. Trying to help them win.”
Keith Tandy’s second-quarter interception was his fifth of the season. Two more, and he’ll break onto the school’s all-time, single-season interceptions list. Aaron Beasley’s 10 are the all time best. Noel Devine rushed for 77 yards and moved up to third place on the Mountaineers all-time rushing list, passing Amos Zereoue.
Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at Elliott@theintelligencer.net