Freshmen playing big role this week

The two most important players for Louisville this week in practice might be Victor Anderson and Josh Miller, a pair of redshirt freshmen charged with the task of simulating West Virginia's potent duo of Steve Slaton and Pat White.

The two most important players for Louisville this week in practice might be Victor Anderson and Josh Miller, a pair of redshirt freshmen charged with the task of simulating West Virginia's potent duo of Steve Slaton and Pat White.

Miller, a rangy 6'2 athlete with 4.5 speed, will act as the shifty White, while Anderson, a jet-fast 5'9 running back, will simulate the elusive Slaton this week as Louisville prepares for Thursday night's showdown in Morgantown against No. 6 West Virginia.

"It's difficult," Kragthorpe said. "We've got Josh Miller playing quarterback for us because he's got speed. To simulate what Pat does with the ball in his hands and what Steve does with the ball in his hands is (difficult)."

Louisville has become quite familiar with White and Slaton since the explosive duo emerged as freshmen two years ago to lead West Virginia to a 46-44 overtime victory in Morgantown after trailing the Cardinals by 17 in the fourth quarter.

Miller will try to simulate West Virginia
quarterback Pat White this week
for Louisville during practice.
This year, White and Slaton have helped West Virginia average 41 points and 470 yards – 298 rushing – total offense.

"He's a great football player," Kragthorpe said of Slaton, who has rushed for 825 yards and 13 touchdowns so far this season. "They're both extremely hard to tackle in open space. I think the key for us is not to let those guys get started because when they get in open space they juke a lot of guys out of (tackles)."

While Slaton and White figure to be the most elusive target's for Louisville's defense Thursday night, Kragthorpe says that 6'3, 260 pound FB/TE Owen Scmitt might be the hardest guy for his team to prepare for.

"I think the hardest guy to simulate is Owen Schmitt," Kragthorpe said. "He does so many things for them. He's a very versatile player. He catches the ball well out of the backfield. They line him up at tailback and fullback. They line him up at tight end. They move him all over the place. So certainly that's something we have to contend with."

Since White and Slaton emerged as freshmen two years ago, West Virginia has been one of the most explosive teams in college football. In their last 33 games, the Mountaineers have won 29, out-rushing their opponents 28 consecutive times. So what has made West Virginia so hard to stop besides the obvious talents of Slaton and White?

"It's option football – it's basically triple option football," Kragthorpe said. "You got to have a dive player, you've got to have a quarterback player and you've got to have a pitch player. We're concentrating on making sure we're assignment sound and a guy accounting for all of those phases of their option game."

Fortunately for Louisville, the Cardinals will have 12 days to prepare for the Mountaineers. With no game over the weekend, Louisville used last week to get healthy and spend extra time preparing for the unique challenges West Virginia will present Thursday night.

"We've spent a lot of time doing it," Kragthorpe said. "The extra days have certainly helped. Our guys have done a good job coming in here and studying film and trying to emulate exactly how they do things. But certainly it is hard to simulate the speed and timing of it."

Emulating White and Slaton, though difficult, is doable. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of trying to prepare for West Virginia's high-powered ground attack is the Mountaineers veteran offensive line. "The toughest thing to simulate is their offensive line and the blocking combinations because they use a number of different blocking combinations depending on what the front configuration is," Kragthorpe said.

Unlike most option attacks, White makes West Virginia's offense particularly tough to depend because of his ability to attack defenses through the air.

"It's three-fold in terms of defending West Virginia," Kragthorpe said. "Number one, they have excellent athletes and a lot of speed on the field. Secondly, they run the triple-option – an unconventional triple option in terms of being a read-zone option. Thirdly, Pat throws the ball well. He's got a quick release, he throws the ball well in the seams and down field and he's an accurate underneath passer. Typically what you see when you're defending the triple-option is not the element of the pass like you see West Virginia being able to present."

Only one team has been able to knock off West Virginia the past two years - South Florida. The Bulls might have provided the blueprint for beating West Virginia when they knocked off the Mountaineers 21-13 in Tampa in late September.

"The biggest thing that South Florida did this year was create turnovers," Kragthorpe said. "It's pretty simple. It minimizes (their) opportunities to score if you're turning them over offensively and (USF) created a lot of turnovers in that game. And then they got Pat out of the game. Those were the two big things to me in the game."

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