EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - Late Friday night, Bill Stewart found himself in the awkward and unenviable position of having to dredge up his team's past failures as proof that there is still hope for the future this season.
Unfortunately, that's what it has come to as the Mountaineers find themselves today in the Big East Conference's cellar.
Friday night's 16-13 overtime loss at Connecticut was West Virginia's second in a row to a league opponent. That has happened only once since 2001, when WVU began the 2004 season 7-1 before losing to Boston College and Pitt at the end of the year. The Mountaineers would go on to lose to Florida State in the Gator Bowl, the last three-game losing streak for the program.
But the last time the Mountaineers lost back-to-back games of any kind was more recent - 2008 to be exact. They were the second and third games of Stewart's first regular season.
In other words, Friday's loss at Rentschler Field isn't exactly uncharted territory, but it is rare nonetheless. West Virginia (5-3, 1-2 Big East) went into Saturday's games tied for dead last in the Big East with South Florida and UConn.
That they were then joined in the basement by Cincinnati and Louisville was of little consolation to the Mountaineers, even though last place is technically a huge tie for fourth place with five teams down there.
With a week off before facing Cincinnati Nov. 13 at home, West Virginia is guaranteed not to be able to do much climbing out for a while.
"It's a new and different territory for us,'' said nose tackle Chris Neild. "This has never happened to us.''
Still, Stewart insisted Friday night that he was not concerned with losing his team, psychologically speaking.
"No, my God no,'' Stewart said when presented with the question after the program's first-ever loss to UConn. "Not one bit.''
When it was pointed out to Stewart that perhaps the players on his current roster had never been faced with anything quite like this while in the program, that's when the third-year head coach actually found himself defending his denial of that by bringing up his own disappointing first three games of the 2008 season.
"Sure they have. My first year they lost two in a row and everybody thought the world was ending and we rallied them back pretty well,'' Stewart said, referring to losses to East Carolina and Colorado that dropped his first-season record to 1-2. "So no, I'm not worried about losing the football team.''