West Virginia Preview

This game marks the first Big East game for West Virginia and what better way to turn around their disappointing start than to win against Miami. That never comes easy for any team, let alone a team that is struggling. Miami on the other hand is rolling. They are not rolling on all cylinders and that is okay for head coach Larry Coker who has said that he hopes they play their best game of the year in their last game of the year.

West Virginia Mountaineers (1-3, 0-0) vs. #2 Miami Hurricanes (4-0, 1-0)
Orange Bowl – Miami, Florida
October 2 – 7:30 PM Eastern on ESPN

The players and coaches at Miami will tell you they are truly focused for this game and not looking ahead to Florida State, however it is important for the Hurricanes to win this game and play well if they plan on beating Miami.

In 2002, Miami defeated West Virginia 40-23 in Morgantown. West Virginia out rushed Miami 363-102, but Miami out gained West Virginia in the air 422-60. Miami has won the last five meetings against West Virginia including a 45-3 blowout the last time they played at the Orange Bowl in 2001.

West Virginia - Notes and Quotes

West Virginia enters the game on a slide losing to Cincinnati and Maryland. The no-huddle spread offense has been sputtering of late gaining just 399 yards in total offense in the past two games (199.5 per game). This is not the start that head coach Rich Rodriguez or his players had hoped for.

Senior running back Quincy Wilson is 5th in the Big East in rushing averaging 89.0 yards per game and is 9th in the Big East in all purpose yards averaging 98.0 yards per game.

"Season has been up and down," said Wilson. "We opened with Wisconsin, played them pretty tough. We were up the whole game and let it slip away late. We rebounded and we got East Carolina at their place. The last two weeks against Cincinnati and Maryland, we have really been struggling offensively. We are just trying to get some consistency back and finish these last nine games on a roll."

The offensive line has been injured this year including the loss of senior Tim Brown who has started the last two years at right tackle. Brown's replacements have had a hard time doing the job and coach Rodriguez might shake things up for the Miami game.

"The offensive line has been pretty good," said Wilson. "They have had a lot of injuries prior to the season so it has been patch-work. They are hard workers. I would like to have more rushing yards, but I am still doing a good job."

According to Wilson, there are few defensive players on Miami that stand out to him, "Sean Taylor has the size of a defensive end but he is playing safety. D.J. Williams and Jonathan Vilma are both good players. Everyone knows that Miami has great athletes."

Coach Rodriguez knows the challenge that Miami presents and is welcome to the challenge.

"Obviously we have a tremendous challenge against Miami as they are one of the best teams in the country and one of the best programs in the country," said Rodriguez. "It is also a tremendous opportunity. We have a lot of guys that will play in that king of atmosphere for the first time. Its national television and we get a chance to prove to people that we are better than what we have shown in previous games."

"You hate to have a bye week after a bad loss. But for us we needed to get some guys healthy and work on some fundamentals on offense and defense. It probably came at a good time for us. I don't know if there is enough time to prepare for Miami. The more you watch them on film the more depressing it is from a coaching standpoint. At least it gives you time to try and correct things ourselves. We have had some good practices and we know things are going to be very tough in all three phases against the Hurricanes. Our young men have worked very hard and they have an outstanding attitude. You expect them to be down after a loss, but after we got back into practices their attitude and effort was real good. I have been very impressed with them and how they want things to go in the right direction. If you can combine that with some guys making plays, who knows what could happen. And we as coaches have time to try and put together a game plan that maybe we can have some success."

Rodriguez is also impressed with the way that Miami reloads after losing great players.

"They recruit very well and the coaches do a good job teaching them to be in position to make a play. They have as much talent as anyone in the country and it has been that way for the last couple years. It will be that way for the foreseeable future. They can go across the street and get half the roster and get anyone nationally because of their name, to get fill in the other spots. They do a good job recruiting and a good job coaching. Their players play hard and when you get that kind of combination you are going to have one of the best teams in the country."

Not only is Rodriguez with the way Miami reloads, it is evident to him that they are a well-coached team.

"You just see them play hard," said Rodriguez. "When you have competition like they do, you are going to get guys to play hard like they do. Because if they don't, there is another guy waiting to go in. They also put them in a position to make plays. They try not to over complicate things. They put athletes in positions and let them make plays. They have been doing that for a couple years now and they are doing that this year. Some times when you have tremendous amount of talent some teams are up and down. Talent can only take you so far but if they don't execute and don't play hard, then teams can sneak up on you. There are few people sneaking up on Miami. As many wins as they've had in the past few years, you've got to have more than just talent."

Like many teams, the players understand the value of playing Miami.

"A win against Miami is the win that our program needs," said Wilson.

Miami Hurricanes - Notes and Quotes

The team dealt with bad weather conditions this past week including practicing indoors at a small gymnasium and missing practice all together. They were not able to get as many things done this week, but with the bye week they were still able to utilize their time in practice.

"The bye week came at a good time for us because we had a lot of players that were slowed by ankle injuries and soft muscle pulls," said head coach Larry Coker. "Hopefully we can get some of these guys back on the field. We are like everybody else, we need our best players on the field for the games. I think it is important that we have four games behind us and it is good timing for this football team. Being away from football helped the guys on the team as much mentally as it was physically. Physically it benefited Frank Gore, Roscoe Parrish and Quadtrine Hill the most."

Although West Virginia has struggled this season, Coker realizes that it will be a tough game.

"Obviously coach Rich Rodriguez has done a fantastic job at West Virginia," said Coker. "They had a great year last year. We had a tough game against them in Morgantown and they were a bowl team last year. I think they have lost some very tough games this year, some very close games. We expect a very tough football game on Thursday on ESPN which is a national spotlight. It should be a great football game."

Coker was quick to point out the strengths of West Virginia.

"They are a physical team," said Coker. "They have some good players. They are talented at running back. They have a great quarterback who is great for their type of offense. He is an outstanding runner and is like another running back in the backfield. Defensively, Grant Wiley is an outstanding linebacker. They have a lot of guys back in the secondary."

Senior middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma assessed the West Virginia offense.

"I think Rasheed Marshall understands when to run the ball and he is a threat to running every time he has the ball,' said Vilma. "You can have everything covered and he just takes off and runs for 15 yards. That's always a problem, not for us, but for any defense. It's a bit frustrating when you have them backed up about to get off the field and then they keep the drive going with one of his runs. In preparing for the no-huddle offense we have been practicing getting calls from the sidelines and getting ready quickly for the next play. Recognition is the key to stopping their offense. It is tough at times because when you get the call from the sideline you turn around and they are right there ready to go We have done some things to prepare for the offense."

Last year West Virginia rushed for 363 yards against Miami. This is a point of emphasis for this year's Hurricane squad. Miami is averaging nearly 45 yards less per game in defending the run this year compared to last year. Is this just a coincidence or is there a difference?

"I think there is a difference," said Coker. "We are playing physical in the middle. The linebackers are playing extremely well and we are involving the safeties. We are doing a lot better with line names. We are mixing things up a lot more this year compared to last year. We are using the safeties a lot more in stopping the run this year. Sean Taylor is a linebacker-type tackler and is being used in the front a lot more. Mo Sikes is healthy this year and I think his shoulder really hurt is tackling last year."

The Hurricanes have won 24 straight home games at the Orange Bowl and possess a 34-4 home record in all-time Big East games.

"A lot of it has to do with personnel," said Coker. "But there is an electricity in the Orange Bowl. It is a fan-friendly stadium from a standpoint that our fans are very close to the field. We set a record last year in attendance and we expect a good turnout on Thursday. There is a lot of mystique in the Orange Bowl. A lot of National Championships have been won there. Four Super Bowls have been played there. A lot of special things have happened in the Orange Bowl."

The losses to top-ranked teams this year such as; Auburn, Michigan, Texas, Kansas State and USC have caught the Hurricanes' eyes. Vilma had one thing on his mind with those teams going down, "I'm glad it wasn't us."

Miami Huricanes – Projected Starters

QB Brock Berlin Junior
TB Frank Gore Sophomore
FB Quadtrine Hill Sophomore
TE Kellen Winslow Junior
WR Kevin Beard Senior
WR Ryan Moore Freshman
LT Eric Winston Sophomore
LG Vernon Carey Senior
C Joel Rodriguez Junior
RG Chris Myers Junior
RT Carlos Joseph Senior

LE Bryan Pata Freshman
LT Orien Harris Sophomore
RT Vince Wilfork Junior
RE Thomas Carroll Sophomore
WLB D.J. Williams Senior
MLB Jonathan Vilma Senior
SLB Darrell McClover Senior
CB Antrel Rolle Junior
CB Alfonso Marshall Senior
FS Sean Taylor Junior
SS Maurice Sikes Senior

Hurricane Injury Status

FB Quadtrine Hill (Ankle) Probable
K Jon Peattie (Hip) Probable
OT Eric Winston (Ankle) Probable
WR Devin Hester (Ankle) Probable
DE Alton Wright (Ankle) Questionable
DE Baraka Atkins (Ankle) Doubtful
SS Greg Threat (Hamstring) Doubtful
FB Talib Humphrey (Achilles) Out
FB Jon Beason (Shoulder) Out
OG Joe McGrath (Leg) Out

Team Leaders

Passing – Brock Berlin (884 yards 59% 5 TD 5 Int)
Rushing – Frank Gore (453 yards 5.3 avg 4 TD)
Receiving – Kevin Beard (12 rec 197 yards 1 TD) Kellen Winslow (15 rec 138 yards 1 TD)
Defense – Sean Taylor (24 tackles 3 Int) Jonathan Vilma (27 tackles) Vince Wilfork (4 sacks)
Kicking – Jon Peattie (5-6 FG 17-17 XP)

West Virginia
Passing – Rasheed Marshall (442 yards 47% 6 TD 2 Int)
Rushing – Quincy Wilson (356 yards 4.4 avg 3 TD)
Receiving – Travis Garvin (8 rec 145 yards 1 TD) Miquelle Henderson (8 rec 100 yards 1 TD)
Defense – Grant Wiley (53 tackles, 5 forced fumbles) Ernest Hunter (2 sacks) Lance Frazier (2 int)
Kicking – Brad Cooper (1-4 FG 10-12 XP)

Notable Team Statistics

West Virginia – 113th Nationally in Passing Offense (123.25)
Miami – 25th Nationally in Pass Defense (171.25)
West Virginia – 1st Big East in Turnover Margin (+7)
Miami – 8th Big East in Turnover Margin (+1)

Two Key Match-ups To Watch

When West Virginia has the ball…
QB Rasheed Marshall vs. WLB D.J. Williams

Marshall can flat out run and is not afraid to use his speed when a pass play breaks down. Designated quarterback shotgun draws are also in the gameplan for the Mountaineers. If Marshall struggles in the passing game early it will be easier for the Hurricanes to inch up and play against the run. Williams will have an eye on Marshall and will need to keep him in check. The senior outside linebacker has made some big plays already this season, but preventing Marshall to run loose might be his biggest challenge thus far.

When Miami has the ball…
TB Frank Gore vs. LLB Grant Wiley

Gore has been steady this season, but has yet to break loose through the secondary. He is picking up positive yardage and averaging over five yards a carry and over 100 yards per game. Frank wants to improve on those numbers. He had time to recooperate during the off week after sustaining minor injuries in the past couple of weeks. It will be Wiley's job to stop him. He is the leader of the Mountaineer 3-3-5 defense and the rest of his counterparts really rally around the senior linebacker. Wiley already has five forced fumbles this season and will try and line up Gore any chance he can get.

Keep Your Eye On

West Virginia WR Chris Henry – Henry will be making his first career start and has three catches on the season, all touchdowns.

Miami FB Quadtrine Hill – Hill had over 100 yards receiving the last time these two teams met.

Coach Larry Coker's Final Word

"We are going to be a fresh team with fresh legs. We should play fast and be a hungry team."

Player Quote of the Week

Cornerback Alfonso Marshall on what it feels like running along side a guy that is about to score on special teams, "It feels good, but it doesn't feel like they do."

Christopher Stock is a Staff Columnist for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at stock@grassy.com

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