Friday night’s game gave us a whole bunch to talk about. There was the fumble/touchdown conspiracy, the play calls on WVU’s penultimate drive and the weird sequence when the Mountaineers were called for procedure penalties on consecutive kickoffs.
The first two issues were thoroughly vetted after the game and in the days to follow. If the Mountaineers took the high road — and did 80 mph in the left lane — to avoid the replay issue, they also cleverly and courageously explained the decisions as they neared Cincinnati’s end zone late in the game.
What wasn’t addressed, however, were the penalties. At least, it would appear, not to Bill Stewart’s satisfaction.
In Monday’s press conference, he provided a sensible explanation of the call and acknowledged he not only ordered the ultimately illegal tactic, but asked it be done twice. (Sorry, but you can’t crush the guy for his honesty.) He said the idea was to get a jump on Mardy Gilyard and pointed out the penalties had no impact on the game, which, we were led to believe, should have disarmed the criticism.
Fair enough. It made sense, but, boy, it was a really detailed response. Stewart knew exactly what happened in sequence following the penalties even though he, and many other coaches, are known and prone to blend plays and series together right after a game, let alone three days later.
This wasn’t lost on a few people in attendance and it wasn’t lost on people who were watching from home.
One commenter noted, “I watched it like 20 times on my DVR and Stewart is clearly mouthing ‘kickoffs’ to someone as there is a brief moment of all the reporters laughing.”
Another followed and said that at one point in the press conference, “Stew looks to his right, says, ‘Ask me about kickoffs. Kickoffs.’ Then looks away, giggles, then looks sternly back to his right.”
So I took the bait. I watched the area in question. You should, too. Jump to the 16:45 mark.
Dave Hickman, seated to Stewart’s left, begins to ask a question. Stewart makes a joke. There is laughter and Stewart looks to his right and says to something to someone, presumably Tony Caridi, the team’s play-by-play guy, who was seated directly to Stewart’s right.
It looks and sounds as if Stewart says, “Ask me about kickoffs. Kickoffs.”
Hickman asks a separate question. Stewart replies. Caridi then asks about the kickoffs. Suspicious, to say the least, but I guess the best way to handle criticism is to stay ahead of it.