MORGANTOWN - In the wake of two rather unexpected - if not embarrassing - Big East losses, West Virginia football coach Bill Stewart Monday said he spent the weekend performing a "total self-evaluation of the program'' and will continue to do so this week.
Part of that is routine. The Mountaineers are off this week and don't play again until a week from Saturday at home against equally disappointing Cincinnati. All teams make it a practice of self-scouting and, during off weeks, do it in more detail.
But given the tone during his weekly news conference on Monday - pushed up a day because he plans to be on the road recruiting today - Stewart seems more concerned with pinpointing why his team has faltered so badly in recent weeks rather than doing a routine evaluation.
And there is enough blame, he seemed to be saying, to go around.
"All I'm trying to do is get things perfect. That's what a team does. That's what a family does,'' Stewart said. "But let me assure you . . . I am not a finger-pointer. I am not pointing the blame at these players.''
He then went right on not to blame his players, but spoke of accountability on the part of everyone.
"If you're supposed to make a block, make it to the best of your ability,'' he said. "If you're supposed to hang on to a ball, do it to the best of your ability. If you're supposed to be somewhere in a formation or in motion, do the best you can. If you have a deep third, cover your deep third.
"Now, if someone thinks I've been pointing my fingers at these players, that's wrong. My players will never tell you that. But that's how it is and that's what a team does. We start with Bill Stewart and we start with the coaches. And I'm going to grill them, believe me. And then we go with the players. Just do what you can to the best of your ability and play hard. That's all we ask.''
West Virginia's players are certainly accountable to some degree in West Virginia's two most recent losses - 19-14 at home to Syracuse and 16-13 in overtime last Friday at Connecticut.
In the UConn loss, the Mountaineers fumbled the ball seven times and lost four, and also had a touchdown and another gain to the 2-yard line nullified by penalties. West Virginia also gave up a deep pass following a turnover that set up the field goal that tied the score. A pass behind the defense also accounted for Syracuse's only touchdown the week before.
So from that standpoint, it is easy to see that the players have made some mistakes that contributed greatly to the two losses.
But Stewart also wants to hold the coaches responsible, too. And that includes both sides of the ball. While West Virginia's primary problems stem from an offense that has mounted just one real scoring drive over the final three quarters of the last three games - that's nine quarters and just one field goal, in a 20-6 win over South Florida - there have been defensive deficiencies, as well.