MORGANTOWN -West Virginia University football coach Bill Stewart has long preached about needing to spread the wealth and stretch the field, but he knows there will be one player lining up across from his troops that has the ability to cut that field in half.
LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson is already on nearly everybody's "Watch List," and Stewart said his team better be aware of where Peterson is.
"He should be up for the Heisman," Stewart said Tuesday. "He's the best defensive back in the country. He's a shut-down guy. He's great, just great."
In LSU's first three games, Peterson has come up to make 10 tackles and has already intercepted two passes. He is averaging 23.9 yards per punt return, which includes taking one in for a touchdown, and 31.7 yards per kickoff return.
"He's as good as I've ever seen," said WVU offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen. "We'll have our hands full."
Peterson is also a National Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and he was named as a first-team All-America pick on five preseason teams. But WVU quarterback Geno Smith, who went against Peterson while the two were in high school, said the Mountaineers cannot let one player dictate the entire game.
"He can change the game, if you let him," Smith said. "Patrick Peterson is a great player, one of the best in the nation. But it's not a game against him. There are 11 players on the field. LSU has great players all through their defense. We have to adjust to it, come out and play our game."
Peterson typically covers the opposing team's best receiver, and WVU running back Noel Devine expects to see Peterson line up opposite of slot receiver Jock Sanders.
"I'm sure Jock is pretty excited about that match-up," Devine said.
Sanders has caught a pass in 31 straight games, and he is second on the team with 19 catches. Tavon Austin leads the Mountaineers with 21. But those two are the only pass-catching threats for WVU. Devine has 13, and Stedman Bailey has nine catches. Tight end Will Johnson and receiver J.D. Woods both have three. In all, 10 different Mountaineers have caught at least one pass.
"I think (Peterson) will play against Jock," Austin said. "I wouldn't mind that."
Saturday's game between the Mountaineers is the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The game will kick off at 9 p.m. (ESPN2).