WVU seeks reversal of road fortunes
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia's road troubles under Bill Stewart started in his second game as head coach.
On Sept. 6, 2008, the Mountaineers went to East Carolina as the eighth-ranked team in the nation and lost, 24-3, to the Pirates.
Since that point, WVU hasn't been the same in an opposing team's stadium.
"It's not anything that we're doing wrong," offensive lineman Joey Madsen said. "We just need to be a little bit more focused."
Under Stewart, the Mountaineers have had their share of road troubles. In his three years at the helm, WVU is 5-8 away from Milan Puskar Stadium. He has only beaten two teams on the road that have finished with a winning record — Rutgers finished 9-4 last season; UConn was 8-5 in 2008. The teams Stewart has lost to away from home had a combined .500 record.
"The (home) team is never out of it," senior slot receiver Jock Sanders said. "We had UConn, 14-0. We thought we had them. But anything can happen. Their crowd got into it, and they made a few big plays and they were right back. That's the scary thing."
On the other hand, the Mountaineers have an 18-2 home record and a 2-1 mark at neutral sites under Stewart.
Prior to its loss to Syracuse in October, WVU had a 12-game home winning streak.
"Most people, generally speaking, have a better record at home. That is why the home crowd is so special to you and to the young men playing out in the arena," Stewart said. "We have done OK on the road. We have won some big games and lost some heartbreakers."
Madsen attributes some of the road troubles to the team playing at night. All of the Mountaineers' road games this season have been night-time starts.
"We just sit at a hotel all day and don't really do anything," Madsen said. "I've caught myself not really thinking about the game and just chilling and finally realizing the game is close and not being there mentally."
Madsen said one way he's learned to stay focused is to look over plays, tape and notes about the game while relaxing in the hotel.
One of the five wins away from home has come at Louisville in 2008. West Virginia will travel back to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Saturday to try to win a second straight game there.
"(WVU's road trips) have not been as pleasant as we would have liked it to have been," Stewart said. "Maybe we can make amends to that this weekend and get back on track."
Notes: West Virginia's starting right tackle Jeff Braun left last Saturday's game against Cincinnati with sharp pain in his shoulder. Stewart said Braun will start for the Mountaineers against Louisville despite replacement Matt Timmerman's strong play. ... For the second consecutive week, WVU does not know who it will face at quarterback. If starter Adam Froman is not good to go, the Mountaineers will face Justin Burke. Stewart said WVU is preparing for three quarterbacks if 5-foot-10 Will Stein plays.