MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University football coach Bill Stewart credited the 12th man, whom he fondly calls Mountaineer Nation, for rattling the Maryland team enough early on to allow his team to jump out to a 21-0 lead at halftime.
"I think (the fans) got them flustered off the get-go," Stewart said during his Sunday teleconference. "It set the tempo against the Terrapins and for us."
The Mountaineers, 3-0 and ranked No. 22 after Saturday's 31-17 win over Maryland, know they will be facing the opposite end of the spectrum come Saturday night when they head south to battle Louisana State University in front of a crowd expected to top 90,000.
ON?THE?MOVE?— West Virginia’s Jock Sanders looks to break through Maryland’s Kenny Tate, left, and Trenton Hughes Saturday in the Mountaineers’ 31-17 win. (The Inter-Mountain/Andrew Davis)
"It's going to be fun," he said. "It's going to be challenging."
Stewart said his team is accustomed to facing hostile crowds, this year going to Marshall and in the past playing Florida State in Florida and at Auburn last year. He said the team will have to bond in a way only those facing adversarial situations do.
"We just have to hang together and play football," the coach said. "We have to rally around each other."
LSU, also 3-0, is ranked among the top 15 teams in Division, and it is led by running back Stevan Ridley and his 318 yards rushing. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson has thrown for 344 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite targets have been Rueben Randle, who has caught 10 passes, and Terrence Tolliver, who has pulled in nine. Like WVU, LSU has spread the wealth between several talent runners and receivers.
With that in mind, Stewart knows he has to stop the Tigers' big plays on offense. He said his blitzing defenders have to be able to pressure the quarterback in order to alleviate having defensive backs chase receivers for long periods of time.
"When you blitz, you have to get there," he said. "We're going to work on that."
Game time is set for 9 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN2.