WVU

Will play for ‘Eers... West Virginia backup quarterback Jarrett Brown is expected to see action Saturday when the Mountaineers host Rutgers in their Big East opener at Morgantown.

BLUEFIELD — A 2-2 record isn’t where West Virginia would like to be at this point in the season.

The good news is neither one of those defeats came in the Big East. Winning that title and earning a BCS bowl bid is the ultimate goal of every West Virginia football team.

“We’ve played a good schedule and it’s been an attractive schedule for our fans. We found out a lot about ourselves on the road in games two and three...,” first-year West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said. “...The goal in our program is and will always be the Big East championship — that’s what we strive for and that’s what we live for.

“Now it’s time to get out there and put our helmets on, our mouth pieces in and try to get after it. There are a lot of good teams in the Big East this year.”

Rutgers hasn’t been one of those early on. The Scarlet Knights are 1-3, with that lone win coming last week against Morgan State. The losses have come against a tough schedule that includes Fresno State, North Carolina and Navy.

Still, Stewart is wary of the Knights, comparing them to East Carolina and Colorado, the two teams that have send the Mountaineers to defeat this season.

“We look forward to an exciting match-up and I hope the weather is good,” said Stewart, whose ‘Eers are 29-4-2 all-time against the Scarlet Knights, including 13 wins in a row. “We’re ready to play at noon on Saturday.”

“Rutgers has a veteran football team coming in...Rutgers’ defense is very impressive. They have played against our guys and they have had a lot of experience in the Big East,” Stewart said. “They are a good, solid defense who is going to give us some problems...

“I see a group, in my opinion, that is a lot like East Carolina and Colorado... We are really going to have to stay patient, stay in the game, chip away here and there and use some creativity like we did last week.”

West Virginia looked liked the Mountaineers of old for much of last week’s 27-3 win over Marshall, rolling up 493 yards, including 319 yards on the ground, led by Noel Devine, who had 125 yards on just 14 attempts.

The biggest concern was the health of Pat White, who suffered a thumb injury against Marshall, but will start against the Knights.

“Pat is OK. He’s practiced and has taken snaps which is good,” Stewart said. “He threw the ball around on Sunday where he threw some short and long throws. He’s doing OK.

“I saw him (Tuesday) morning when he came in for treatment and he has a big smile on his face. He’s ready to go. We’re very blessed there.”

While the offense has struggled to find consistency, West Virginia’s defense has improved, limiting the Thundering Herd to just three points and 158 yards on offense.

That unit will be tested by Rutgers, which is led by quarterback Mike Teel and 1,000-yard receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood. The Knights are without long-time running back Ray Rice, who is now in the NFL, but redshirt freshman Jourdan Brooks ran for 65 yards and three scores last week.

“They are trying to pitch it around. We have to change the way we prep for them without Ray Rice...,” said Stewart, who said linebacker Reed Williams is questionable with shoulder ailments. “Right now, I would imagine that he’s going to put the ball in No. 14’s hands. I would put the ball in Mike Teel’s hands.”

Throughout the early season struggles, Stewart has been optimistic, repeatedly speaking of the improvement shown by the Mountaineers. That hasn’t changed.

“I saw it at Boulder. I knew at Boulder that we had a chance to be a good football team, I saw it,” Stewart said. “A great football team? No. No. 8 in the country? No. Not yet.

“I saw that chance in Boulder and I’ve seen our guys practice their hearts out, hit hard and play Mountaineer football in practice. I saw guys get after it on the road and I saw that again Saturday.

“Are we back? No. Are we on our way back? Yes. I don’t think we ever lost, I just think we weren’t good early. We got beat and tagged, but I hope that’s all rectified. Are we going to get beat again? We could, but I hope not.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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