Saturday’s loss to LSU was Bill Stewart’s 30th game in charge at West Virginia … or was it the 31st? Technically, yes, the Fiesta Bowl is his — as it absolutely should be — which then meant Stewart turned 31 Saturday.
Yet his tenure as the head coach, sans interim tag, is now 30 games long. For the purpose of this profile, it’s 30 games. No need to mess with the Fiesta Bowl and contrarian points of “Yeah, but you included the Fiesta Bowl …” or “Yeah, but you didn’t include the Fiesta Bowl…” with regard to what follows.
This is about the 30 games since Stewart was hired, assembled a staff and began the 2008 season.
Not too long ago, 30 games was three full seasons. Three seasons, for various reasons and to many people, is the time allowed for a coach to take control, encourage direction and provide an identity to his program.
Check out The Product’s third year. Twas 2003: Share of the Big East title, seven straight wins to end the regular season, widely accepted notion of upcoming success.
Stewart’s 2010: TBA, but you do see some direction and some identity and he’s got a good deal of talent coming back, especially on offense, in the next few years.
There’s another similarity, too. In 2003, WVU went to Miami, played well above the expected level and nearly beat the No. 2-ranked Hurricanes. Nearly was not enough as it left an opening for a soldier to intervene, but the experience left the Mountaineers livid and they didn’t lose again the rest of the regular season.
Don’t underestimate what that game meant to the process.
Maybe this whole LSU thing does the same. A lot of people on the team are piqued right now after playing well on the road against a highly ranked team. Maybe they stew on it and rip off a winning streak. Time will tell.
Thus far, Stewart’s 30 games have told us these 30 things:
- WVU is 21-9, the second-best winning percentage through a coach’s first 30 games in WVU history. The best? Clarence Spears, who was the fastest to 22 wins from 1921-23. Jack Simons is not walking through that door, fans!
- Nearly half of Stewart’s games have been away from home. He’s 6-8 in those games (five regular-season road games in 2008 and 2009, bowls at the end of those seasons, two regular-season road games this season).
- The 6-8 road record could and probably should be better. Not because you expect more. WVU has a plus-five turn0ver margin in those road games, which is really good. Trouble is, the WVU teams have committed 15 turnovers.
- Speaking of turnovers, WVU was plus-12 in turnover margin in 2008 and minus-two in 2009 and is minus-4 so far this season. They’ve lost 41 turnovers in the 30 games.
- WVU has caused more turnovers than the opponent in 13 of the 30 games.
- WVU is 11-2 when it wins the turnover battle and 7-5 when it loses the turnover battle … which, come to think of it, is fairly impressive.
- Stewart is 10-4 against the Big East and 4-4 against other opponents from BCS leagues, including 1-1 in bowls.
- Stewart is 3-0 against FCS teams and 4-1 against FBS teams from non-BCS leagues.
- Remember November? WVU is 4-3 in the 11th month, but 7-1 in the 10th.
- The Mountaineers have only been underdogs four times, but are 1-3 (beat Rutgers last year, lost to Auburn and Cincinnati last year and LSU last week).
- All that stuff about setting the alarm? Not an exaggeration. WVU was outscored in the first quarter 81-70 in 2008, but finished ahead 110-67 last season and is up 24-14 this year.
- Underrated: Third quarter splits. Through 30 games, WVU leads 206-96. Something happens at halftime.
- Stewart is 15-1 at home with a 10-game winning streak at Mountaineer Field. Only three times has a WVU team been better (12: 1987-89, 1942-45; 14: 1924-26).
- Stewart is 1-2 against ranked teams (Win: No. 8 Pitt in 2009; Losses: No. 5 Cincinnati in 2009, No. 15 LSU in 2010).
- Against ranked teams, WVU has been barely outscored, 60-54.
- Total offense is actually gradually improving: 360.4 yards per game in 2008, 377.5 in 2009, 378.8 so far in 2010.
- Scoring offense is not improving. You’ll get arguments on this, but the major stat in college football is scoring offense. If you’ve got a lot of points, you’re going to be good in a lot of the other categories — and not just the offensive ones. This one takes care of others. Now some will argue scoring defense is key as that seems to relate most to wins and losses … and wins are the stat that matters. Still, WVU went from 24.5 points per game in 2008 (with Pat White) to 26.2 in 2009 to 25.0 so far this season. That 26.2 includes 33, 35, 30, 35 and 34 to start the season — by far the most prolific streak in the 30 games — and then the Jarrett Brown concussion in the sixth game.
- In all, WVU has 12 games with 30 or more points, which would probably surprise some people … I’ll let you decide the nature of the surprise.
- Teams are rearely ever judged on what they do. Perspective matters and in 2008, 2009 and 2010, WVU’s scoring offense has been ranked Nos. 73, 67 and 72. Total offense has been ranked Nos. 59, 61 and 61. The middle nationally is 60.
- WVU averages 27.4 points in home games, 22.3 in true road games and 26.0 in neutral (bowl) games. When the Mountaineers are not home, they score 22.9 points per game.
- WVU allows 14.6 points in home games, 22 in true road games and 31.5 in neutral (bowl) games. When the Mountaineers are not home, they allow 23.4.
- If you care about style points, the scoring margin was 7.5 in 2008 and 5.2 in 2009 and is 10.5 this season. The defense allowed 17 points per game in 2008 and 21.7 last year and is allowing just 14.5 this year. Such a thing really only matters if you’re a very visible program and/or part of a conference that is doubted from time to time.
- WVU is 10-9 on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ABC or CBS.
- The Mountaineers are 2-7 on grass and 19-2 on turf.
- WVU is 5-6 at night.
- WVU is 7-1 following a loss.
- WVU is 6-6 as a ranked team with five of those losses coming on the road.
- The Mountaineers have been in 15 of the 40 polls — preseason, regular season and final rankings — since the beginning of 2008.
- Stewart was one of the first college football coaches to jump onto the Twitter bandwagon. He has more than 11,450 followers and 300 tweets.
- Only one assistant coach has left Stewart’s staff in two offseasons. Every other Big East team lost at least one coordinator in the 2008 offseason. South Florida, Cincinnati and Louisville hired new coaches this past offseason. The Mountaineers have the highest paid staff of assistants in the Big East.