West Virginia not looking past Rutgers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia needs little motivation Saturday despite facing last-place Rutgers.
The 20 seniors on the WVU (8-3, 4-2) roster, who will play in their last home game in a Mountaineer uniform, have to look no further than their freshman season to understand why they shouldn't underestimate any opponent.
"Those guys know what's at stake," West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said. "If we win, we will be called champions."
Their freshman season was the year West Virginia — with an opportunity to make the national title game for the first time since 1989 — was upset by Pitt, 13-9, in its regular-season finale.
Two of WVU's seniors, defensive tackle Scooter Berry and running back Noel Devine, started in that game. Slot receiver Jock Sanders, linebacker J.T. Thomas, linebacker Pat Lazear, safety Sidney Glover, linebacker Anthony Leonard, offensive lineman Eric Jobe, nose tackle Chris Neild, defensive back Trippe Hale and holder Jeremy Kash all played in the game, as well.
"Coach Stew has been doing a lot of talking because he heard a few people talking about what bowl game we're going to go to," Sanders said. "If we don't take care of this weekend, it doesn't even matter."
Those players on the '07 team, which went to the Fiesta Bowl after the loss to the Panthers, don't want to have the same feeling they had when leaving the field that early December evening.
"We're not looking past this game," said running back Shawne Alston, who wasn't on the '07 team but admitted to seeing highlights and hearing a lot about the upset from those seniors. "We're going to try to send our seniors off on a right note and have a good week of preparation so we can come out Saturday and play our game."
While the Scarlet Knights (4-7, 1-5) have lost five straight games heading into the noon kickoff Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium, Stewart still sees ways Rutgers could beat the Mountaineers.
"Has there ever been a football game that is meaningless?" Stewart said. "That's why they tee it up. They absolutely worry me to death."
Stewart cited six blocked punts and versatile offensive playmaker Mohamed Sanu as reasons the Scarlet Knights could pull the upset. They've also played in close games against some of the Big East's best, which worries the Mountaineers' third-year coach.
"They beat UConn. They lost by three to Syracuse. They lost by one to South Florida. That right there is more than enough for me to spend time watching these lads on film," Stewart said.
Rutgers also has a pair of quarterbacks, Chas Dodd and Tom Savage, that Stewart said can beat WVU and beat it "soundly."