Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 22, 2010

Bayou night

WVU goes under the LSU lights

BLUEFIELD — LSU likes playing football games at Tiger Stadium at night.

There is a reason.

Since 1960, LSU is 21-26-3 (.450) in home games played during the day. At night, the Tigers are 216-60-4 (.783).

In fact, LSU is 51-5 under the lights at Death Valley since 2000, and current Tigers’ head coach Les Miles is 24-1 at night in the Bayou.

Overcoming those odds is all that awaits the No. 22 (AP) / No. 23 (coaches poll) Mountaineers (3-0) when they tangle with the No. 12/15 Tigers (3-0) on Saturday night.

The game begins at 9 p.m., and will be televised by ESPN2.

West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart knows how difficult the task ahead will be.

“LSU is a great tradition and a great venue. It is a big showcase for college football and it is a chance for the Mountaineers to go down and see how we measure up,” Stewart said. “Teams have not been too successful down there in Tiger Country, and maybe we will be blessed a little bit better.”

Louisiana State — which will travel to Morgantown next season — is the second of three teams on the schedule that West Virginia has never played before, but the Tigers are a different animal than the other two  — Coastal Carolina and Nevada-Las Vegas.

The Tigers compete in the rugged Southeastern Conference, which is widely regarded as the nation’s top football league. While Stewart doesn’t deny those opinions, he does think the Big East deserves a little more respect than what it gets.

“I am sure every conference has a great opinion of every team in its league,” Stewart said. “The only conference ahead of us in out-of-conference winning percentage is the SEC.

“We are the second conference behind the SEC and every year we have to apologize because we are thought of as a basketball league. We are 16-6 in bowls and we have beaten some SEC schools. I brag all of the time about us being a physical league.”

They’ll have to be the same against LSU, which enters having defeated Mississippi State 29-7, which followed wins over North Carolina and Vanderbilt. The Tigers have struggled offensively, especially through the air, but have no such problems on defense, thanks to all-everything defensive back Patrick Peterson, who is also a standout on special teams.

“He is tremendous. He is averaging 31.7 yards on kickoff returns, with a long of 47 yards, so that means he is getting out there pretty good,” Stewart said. “His punt returns are also 23.9 yards. He is great. He should be up for the Heisman. The guy is the best defensive back in the country.”

West Virginia has started 3-0 for the first time since 2007, following up shaky wins over Coastal Carolina and an overtime thriller against Marshall with an overall solid outing in last week’s 28-14 win over Maryland.

“The game was tough and physical,” said Stewart, during a Tuesday teleconference. “I thought we started fast, but I wish we could have closed the door sooner. That just tells you about Maryland’s resiliency and toughness.

“Maryland is going to win some football games this season. Hopefully, we will continue to do so as well.

West Virginia will go to Louisiana a little bruised. Offensive guard Josh Jenkins and linebacker Pat Lazear are both banged up, with decisions on whether either will play to be made by Stewart on Thursday.

Defensive back Brandon Hogan is also questionable after the senior cornerback was suspended following an arrest on a drunken driving charge earlier this month. Hogan returned to practice on Tuesday, but Stewart said his status for LSU is still being evaluated.

“...He is in evaluation and I don’t know if he will play this weekend and I don’t know if he won’t play this week,” said Stewart, who did allow Hogan to watch the Maryland game from the sidelines. “If he is to play this week, he will have earned the right to play according to my standards and my standards alone.

“I will make that determination the day of the game. He will travel this week.”

West Virginia — and the Big East — have had success in recent seasons against SEC teams, beating Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in 2005, along with a win over Auburn two years ago , and two against Mississippi State.

The ‘Eers did lose its last meeting with an SEC foe, dropping a 41-30 last season in The Plains.

Stewart sees the trip as a good way to prepare the Mountaineers for the Big East campaign, which will begin against South Florida on Oct. 14.

“We are excited to get the chance to play another tough out-of-league opponent in preparation for our Big East run, which will begin in a couple of weeks,” Stewart said.

A big challenge — perhaps West Virginia’s biggest of the season — awaits, but Stewart expects the Mountaineers to be prepared for the task.

“It is southern hospitality at its best. When you go into Auburn or any other SEC school, they do it right,” Stewart said. “It is a good trip. Football is important to those people.

“I look at this trip as a challenge, but we are just going down to play ball.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

 at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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