MORGANTOWN - Bill Stewart dipped into the well of old Rich Rodriguez quotes Saturday afternoon.
Rodriguez never actually used the line following a specific loss, but rather in the wake of a disappointing series of games (an 8-1 start that became an 8-3 finish in 2004) or in anticipation of what the reaction might be to a defeat (heading into a showdown of unbeatens with Louisville in 2006).
Stewart, though, had a more real-time dilemma on his hands: putting into perspective what was sure to be the reaction following West Virginia's disappointing 19-14 loss to two-touchdown underdog Syracuse Saturday afternoon.
"My God, I'm not going to go jump off the Westover Bridge,'' the Mountaineer coach said. "I can tell you that.''
And, indeed, one loss in the Big East does not a disaster make. The truth is that in the last seven years, only twice has a Big East team won the league with an unbeaten conference record. And for both Cincinnati (7-0 in 2009) and West Virginia (7-0 in 2005), an undefeated season wasn't even necessary. The second-place team both seasons was 5-2.
In other words, it hasn't been since 2002 that a team needed to win all of its conference games in order to win the Big East.
The more pressing issue, though, in the wake of a Saturday loss to a Syracuse team that was beaten 45-14 at home the week before by Pitt is whether West Virginia is even up to going 6-1 in the conference. It was not Stewart's intent to assume that there would be yet another loss along the way, but he did attempt to point out that just one defeat doesn't wipe out a team's chances.
"You know how many times we've won the Big East here [with a league record of] 5-2?'' Stewart asked. "Look it up.''
Well, OK, but the answer is just once; twice if one counts a 4-2 mark in the post-ACC transition year of 2004. That was perhaps the season that most parallels this one because it was the season that four non-descript teams (Pitt, Boston College, Syracuse and WVU) tied for first and Pitt got the league's BCS berth and was promptly drubbed by Utah in the Fiesta Bowl.