In the massive debate over the quality of Bill Stewart's tenure through more than two seasons, we decided to analyze the completed seasons, game by game.
Sticking with Charley's formula: For the purposes of this debate, games will be classified by their degree of difficulty, which is my determination. For seasons past, I have the gift of hindsight to aid me, and I have tried to make the most fair judgment possible. After the degree of difficulty is determined, each game will be placed into one of five categories:
- Great win: includes games of difficulty rating 5 at home and 4 & 5 on the road.
- Good win: includes games of difficulty rating 4 at home and 3 on the road.
- Neutral: includes wins of 3 or lower at home, 2 or lower on the road, as well as losses of 4 & 5 on the road and 5 at home.
- Acceptable loss*: includes losses of 3 on the road and 4 at home.
- Bad losses: includes losses 2 or lower on the road and 3 or lower at home.
* Note: There is no such thing as a moral victory. It is not a "good" loss, simply because one does not exist for a team with national aspirations. It may be acceptable, but not good. Don't question us on this.
2009: (9-4 overall, 5-2 conference)
Game #1: WIN ... WVU 33 vs. Liberty 20 (degree of difficulty: 1): Another ho-hum start to the season, this time with Jarrett Brown finally taking the reins of the offense after patiently waiting his turn. Early in the second quarter, the game was still knotted at 10. The only major things of note was the emergence of Tyler Bitancurt and a semblance of a short yardage game with Ryan Clarke. WVU had to settle for 4 field goals after drives stalled.
Game #2: WIN ... WVU 35 vs, East Carolina 20 (degree of difficulty: 2): Jarrett Brown looks like the passer we all hoped he could be after completing 24 of 31 passes for 334 yards and 4 TD's. The story of the day was the beginning of a maddening stretch where WVU would be prone to turning the ball over, as WVU gave the ball away 4 times this day. ECU gained 17 of their 20 points as direct results of the miscues.
Game #3: LOSS ... WVU 30 @ Auburn 41 (degree of difficulty: 3): I'm rating the difficulty of this game a 3 solely because it was a road game in the heart of SEC country (Starkville doesn't count). This game started out wonderfully as WVU raced out to a 21-10 lead at the end of the first quarter. Noel had a long scamper and JB was throwing the ball all over the place. The defense held what was one of the nations best running attacks to only 100 yards, but surrendered 300 through the air. The story again was turnovers...6 of 'em. The offense seemed out of sorts after halftime after moving the ball seemingly at will during the first half. JB was constantly on the run for his life and after being knocked out, we get our first real look at Freshman QB Geno Smith. He looked poised for a freshman, yet was still a true freshman...on the road...in SEC country. This loss didn't look quite so bad at the time, but Auburn was exposed as a middling SEC team as the year bore on. Like LSU this year, it was a winnable game in a hostile environment and we blew it (whatever the circumstances).
Game #4: WIN ... WVU 35 vs. Colorado 24 (degree of difficulty: 1): I started to rate this a 2 but changed based on what Hawkins has done to the Colorado program. The Mountaineers this game? More fumbles - four, all in the first half. Noel gets a career high of 225 yards on 22 carries. Colorado finishes with only 3 victories to show in 2009.
Game #5: WIN ... WVU 34 @ Syracuse 13(degree of difficulty: 1): It was Ernie Davis Day at the Dome. Problem for 'Cuse, Greg Paulus was at the helm of Syracuse. That alone made this an easy win.
Game #6: WIN ... WVU 24 vs. Marshall 7 (degree of difficulty: 3): Normally I would have given this one a 2, but a Marshall
pass rush cheap shot knocked JB out and Geno plays most of this one. WVU never really notices, as the D stones Marshall in the red-zone three times.
Game #7: WIN ... WVU 28 vs. UConn 24 (degree of difficulty: 4): This one gets a 4 from me for two reasons:
1. UConn was a tough out for everyone last year, as the largest margin of victory over them was only 4.
2. Jasper Howard - this was the first game after that tragedy and they were inspired.
Game #8: LOSS ... WVU 19 @ USF 30 (degree of difficulty: 2): This is another game where the game looked more difficult at the time than it really was. This USF team would go on to be shut out by Rutgers the following week.
Game #9: WIN ... WVU 17 vs. Louisville 9 (degree of difficulty: 1): See Colorado above, only replace Colorado with Louisville and Hawkins with Kragthorpe.
Game #10: LOSS ... WVU 21 @ Cincinnati 24 (degree of difficulty: 4): On the road against what was easily the best team in the conference last year, the Mountaineers had a good game plan and kept the ball away from the vaunted Cinci offense for a good portion of the game. If not for a controversial goal line replay overturning, this may have been a different result. Some would argue that some of the 4th down decisions made by HCBS made the difference.
Game #11: WIN ... WVU 19 vs. Pitt 16 (degree of difficulty: 4): Pitt is always going to be a tough out in the Backyard Brawl. Let's just call that a given. They came into this game undefeated (even with a possible loss, they had a date with Cinci to determine the league champion the next week). This was the signature victory everyone was clamoring for: A win over a top 10 team. Lewis got his yards, but the Defense picked Stull off twice. A Bitancurt FG as time expired won the game.
Game #12: WIN ... WVU 24 @ Rutgers 21 (degree of difficulty: 2): This one could have gotten a 2 or 3. Rutgers would finish 3-4 in the BE but had shut out the likes of USF and won their bowl. Like Pravda said, "West Virginia got a little defense, a little kicking, some poor weather, and just enough offense to hold off Rutgers, 24-21" WVU got off to a great start offensively, but sputtered late (as seems to be the case in 2009).
Game #13: LOSS ... WVU 21 vs. Florida State 33 (degree of difficulty: 3): The only reason this gets a 3 is because it was Bowden's last game. This was a bowl game completely made for Bowden, otherwise, FSU deserved to go to a much lesser bowl. At 6-6, this didn't look like it had the makings of being close, but losing JB and Bowden's final bow made it mind numbingly gut wrenching. Much like the Pat White Out the year before, WVU wasn't leaving the state of Florida with a victory here.
So, that's season #2 of the Bill Stewart era. The final count for 2009:
- Great win:NONE
Good win: UConn and Pitt
Neutral: Liberty, ECU, Colorado, Syracuse, Marshall, Louisville, Rutgers
Acceptable loss*: Auburn, Cincinnati, Florida State
Bad losses: South Florida
Again, many more games in the bottom half than in the top. To me, Stewart's second season was a collective "Ehhh." Improvement was expected and didn't materialize.
What are your thoughts on 2009? Have any specific memories (good or bad) on how the team -- and coaches, of course -- performed that year? Please let us know in the comments.