- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Walter Stewart made his presence felt in Cincinnati's opener last week against Pitt. The defensive end notched nine tackles, two sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Here, Stewart talks about building off that performance, along with his goals for his senior season.
Was that about as good of an individual effort as you could have hoped for in Game No. 1?
Walter Stewart: Yeah I think it was a good start, but I wouldn't have been able to make it happen if everybody else wasn't doing their jobs, so definitely a good start to the season.
Pitt's only touchdown came in garbage time. Is that a point of pride for you guys?
WS: Aw hell yeah, man. Bottom line, the standard never changes, no matter who's on the field, no matter who's on the jersey. And you see young guys give up a big play or give up a touchdown at the end of the game that definitely attacks the pride a little bit, but it's just something to learn from and get it corrected.
Did it help having film on them after one week or did it hurt not playing the week before?
WS: It kind of helped because Coach [Butch] Jones was able to let us know a whole bunch of percentages and statistics on what happened in Week 1, and the mistakes that people made. And it also gave us more time to prepare and also gave us the advantage of not having anything on tape for Pitt to study. So it definitely helped being able to sit out one week and see everybody, then get an opportunity later.
Coach Jones has said you're one of the best leaders he's ever been around. What kind of challenge is that for you, and what does that mean to hear that from your head coach?
WS: It just comes with being a senior and being a leader in general. You've just got to show up every day and just live right, put the game first and put your teammates first, be real selfless and just do it for them. And I guess it can be a challenge if you don't want to accept that role, but I fully accept it and just do what I've got to do to help the team win.
Why do you think he said that about you?
WS: Just from the work that I've put in. I've been here a long time and I've played a lot of football here. And just putting in all the work over the years and earning it. A lot of people don't really earn their leadership roles. I guess I earned it. I do what I say. I walk it and I talk it.
Do you have a specific sack goal in mind for this season?
WS: Yeah, my goal is 10. If I get 10 I feel like that'll be enough to help us get to where we need to get to. So if I can get at least 10 I feel like I did a good job this season.
WS: Yeah, I mean, that's it (laughs). I'm always hoping for more but I've got to get to 10 before I get to any other number. So if I get to 10, anything else I'm all game for it.
How closely do you look at other defensive ends in the Big East and throughout the nation? Do you measure yourself against some of the better guys? How do you think you stack up?
WS: There's a lot of good dudes out there, a lot of good pass-rushers, a lot of good outside linebackers and defensive ends out there. But I try to just go out there and produce on the field. I don't really worry about what everybody else is doing. I feel like I'm a good player, too. Every week is a chance to go out there and show who's a better player or who can make the most plays. So I just try to lean toward that and not try to number myself amongst everybody else.
What do you look to build off this week against Delaware State? Where can you improve?
WS: We want to play a clean game offensively and defensively. Even though we won and kind of won big, we want to get back to running to the ball every snap, finishing plays, finishing drives and overall finishing. Because like you said earlier, they had a touchdown toward the end of the game. And small stuff like that, it won't hurt you in a game like that, but it'll hurt you later on. So we just want to make sure that we finish and that we play with good effort this weekend.