Coaches weigh-in on Big East Showdown

What do Big East coaches have to say about Thursday night's showdown between third-ranked West Virginia and fifth-ranked Louisville at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium? has the latest.

If fifth-ranked Louisville plans to beat third-ranked West Virginia Thursday night, the Cardinals will need to get off to a fast start against the Mountaineers.

Rich Rodriquez' team has been incredibly dangerous early in games this season, outscoring opponents 80-14 in the first quarter. That could be a major problem for the Cardinals, who have started slowly in each of their past three games, including a 7 point first half performance in their last game against Syracuse.

To get off on better footing against West Virginia's unusual 3-3-5 defense, Bobby Petrino's offense will need to do several things well. The Cardinals will need to run the ball efficiently, convert third downs and protect the football. Perhaps most importantly, Brian Brohm, Mario Urrutia and the Louisville passing attack need operate in high gear.

"There are some things there that you have to take advantage of (West Virginia's) defense," UConn coach Randy Edsall said. "If you can protect and throw the football, I think you can move the football and score some points on West Virginia."

Edsall believes West Virginia can be beaten through the air.

"It will be interesting to see because that's one of Louisville's strengths with Brian Brohm and their receivers," Edsall added. "Bobby (Petrino) likes to run the ball as well, but in order to beat West Virginia you've got to be able to throw the football and execute in the passing game."

On the other side, Louisville's defensive coaches will have their hands full trying to devise a plan to slow down West Virginia's potent offense, led by stars Pat White and Steve Slaton. The Mountaineers boast the nation's top rushing attack and average more than 40 points per game.

"We haven't played Louisville yet, but I have seen them on TV," Edsall said. "I'll tell you this, when you have an offense like West Virginia has and two outstanding players in Steve Slaton and Pat White it's very, very difficult. Between Dan Moses, Steve Slaton and Pat White, that's what makes West Virginia's offense go. If you try to take away Slaton, White can really hurt you. So you better be very sound. West Virginia is not one dimensional."

To stop West Virginia, a defense must be able to make plays in the open field. According to Cincinnati coach Mark Dantonio, that's one of Louisville's biggest strengths.

"They are very good tacklers in space and they play extremely hard," Dantonio said. "They have good athletes, they apply a lot of pressure and they have very good concepts. I felt they had all the pieces."

Syracuse coach Greg Robinson said it's difficult to determine whether Louisville or West Virginia's defense is tougher to prepare for. Robinson's Orange have played both teams this season, falling to the Mountaineers, 41-17, and to the Cardinals, 28-13.

"I think Louisville has a good solid defense and they move well," Greg Robinson said. "Louisville plays a more aggressive style than West Virginia, who is a little more unorthodox. So they both present different problems and it's hard to say which one is harder to go against."

Dantonio's Bearcats nearly pulled an upset a three weeks ago at Louisville, falling 23-17 to the Cardinals. Cincinnati had huge success against the Cardinals on the ground, rushing for more than 200 yards. That might not be a good sign against the fleeted footed White and Slaton.

"I thought they would be difficult to run against because they have an excellent defense," Mark Dantonio said. "I knew we had to run the football because they would apply so much pressure to our quarterback. So we sort of forced ourselves into that mentality. Some of those runs in that game were quarterback runs, but we were able to control the clock."

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