“That game is behind us,” said Stewart, when asked whether or not he had anything to say to officials with the Big East Conference about the call, which awarded the Bearcats a touchdown on a play that originally been ruled a fumble recovered by the Mountaineers.
“It’s over. It’s in the books. I am not going on record and bashing the Big East. I got on the bus, took my boxed lunch and did a lot of soul-searching and thinking. I’ll let it go at that.”
Beyond that, Stewart again had to address questions about the sequence of plays called on the Mountaineers’ next-to-last drive of the contest, when the squad was down 21-14 and drove just shy of the Bearcats’ red zone in the final minutes.
Instead of calling for Tyler Bitancurt to kick a field goal, the head coach determined that he would be going for a fourth down conversion in that field position.
After a second-and-9 play that went for a mere yard on a Jock Sanders run up the middle, quarterback Jarrett Brown was pressured on fourth-and-8 and threw incomplete after having to scramble for time.
Stewart said Monday that his thinking was motivated partially by the amount of time left on the clock. He said if his team had scored a touchdown on that drive with under 3:00 remaining, he would have gone for the 2-point conversion and the lead.
The decision was also not an easy one for the coach, as the field goal that Bitancurt would have attempted would not have been an automatic make, as it would come from around 44 yards away.
“t was a plus 40-yard kick,” Stewart said. “Can he make it? Yes. Has he made it? Yes. Would he have made it? We’ll never know, but I didn’t think we could stop Marty Gilyard on the kickoff return. I wanted to put the pressure on them.”
As for the play-call that set up the fourth-and-8 play, Stewart said that it was one that had been successful earlier in the game, particularly with Ryan Clarke. The second-year coach said that a blitz from the back side just caught Sanders before he had a chance to burst through the first level of defenders.
He defended both the choice of play calls and the decision to use Sanders instead of Clarke in a power situation.
“(Using the power formation with Clarke) was discussed, but I like the ball in No. 9’s hands,” Stewart said. “He has been doing really, really well. Not that Clarke hasn’t, but I like the ball in No. 9’s hands, and I like the play we called. Cincinnati made a nice play and did a good job.”
“I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
While those aspects of the UC loss will have no bearing on next week’s contest with No. 8 Pittsburgh, the struggles that the West Virginia defense had in dealing with Bearcats running back Isaiah Pead may prove ominous.
The Panthers boast one of the nation’s most prolific running attacks, featuring freshman phenom Dion Lewis, the nation’s sixth-leading rusher with a 129.1 yards per game average.
That may not bode well for a WVU defense that has struggled defending the run in recent weeks. Pead had 175 yards on only 18 carries. The week before, Louisville running back Darius Ashley had 164 yards on his 33 attempts.
As Stewart has previously declared that the goal of his team’s 3-3-5 stack defense is to stop the run first and foremost, that may be a troubling trend for the head coach.
“Isaiah Pead is a good back,” Stewart said. “He made us miss. That is the No. 5 team in the country and they did well. The youngster at Louisville is pretty good. They ran the ball a lot, and we were in a bend and not break mode and didn’t give up a touchdown and won the football game.”
“I wish we could hold everybody to 20 yards, but it doesn’t happen in this day in age. I know this -- if we give up a third big game in a row, we’re in trouble.”
West Virginia announced that the game with the Panthers would be played at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 27. It will be televised by ESPN2.
"I don’t care if it’s at noon, 1:00, 3:00, 7:00, 10:00 -- I don’t care. It can be their place, our place or a parking lot somewhere in between. I don’t care just as long as we have a chance to play in the Backyard Brawl."