Preview: West Virginia at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Kickoff tomorrow will be an emotional time for Rutgers and its fans as Eric LeGrand leads the team out of the tunnel against the 24th rated West Virginia Mountaineers. previews the action.

West Virginia (5-2, 1-1) at Rutgers (5-2, 2-1)

Time: 3:36 p.m., High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
TV/Radio: ABC, 710-WOR, 1450-AM, 97.5 FM, 88.7 WRSU
Series: West Virginia leads 32-4-2
Last meeting: Dec. 4, 2010: West Virginia won, 35-14
Coaches: Rutgers – Greg Schiano (11th season, 64-65); West Virginia – Dana Holgorsen (1st season, 5-2)


  • The Losing Streak. The last time Rutgers beat West Virginia in football, gas cost $1.11 per gallon, Miles Shuler was one year old and Greg Schiano was six years out of college. Schiano is winless in 10 attempts against the Mountaineers and tomorrow may be one of the final chances to win with recent conference realignment developments.

  • bELieve 52. Eric LeGrand will lead the Scarlet Knights out of the tunnel in what will be an emotionally charged buildup to kickoff. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 3:20 to support LeGrand as he leads the team.

  • Speed Test. West Virginia will be the true test of Rutgers' improved speed on defense. The Scarlet Knights have seen spread packages, but nothing tests the speed of the defense like WVU.

Scouting West Virginia

Offensively, quarterback Geno Smith drew comparisons Joe Namath from Greg Schiano and defensive tackle Scott Vallone said he is the best Big East quarterback he ever played against. In seven games, smith has 2,497 passing yards and 18 touchdowns this season to just five interceptions. WVU's main skill weapon is Tavon Austin, who torched Rutgers last season. The speedy Austin leads the Mountaineers with 48 receptions for 624 yards and two touchdowns. He also averages 23.8 yards per kick return and has a touchdown.

Wide Receiver Tavon Austin
Defensively, West Virginia essentially runs a 3-3-5 and uses its speed to pressure the quarterback and create turnovers. The pressure, however, has not been there this season. WVU averages just over one sack and one forced turnover per game. The Mountaineers gave up at least 30 points in half of their games against Division I opponents including 49 to Syracuse last week. Najee Goode and Pat Miller are tied for the team lead with 47 tackles apiece.

Matchup to Watch
Rutgers secondary against West Virginia WR Tavon Austin. Austin embarrassed the Rutgers secondary last season with 167 total yards and two touchdowns. Rutgers made a series of offseason adjustments, including moving David Rowe to Safety and Khaseem Greene out of the secondary, to deal with speed like Austin.

What Rutgers Must Do Offensively
Big Plays. Rutgers needs to hit the home run this week. Between drops, poorly-timed throws and mis-reads in the run game, Rutgers has not hit a big play since Joe Martinek's reception against Pittsburgh. To have any chance against the Mountaineers, Rutgers needs big plays.

What Rutgers Must Do Defensively
Early Pressure.Geno Smith has one of the quickest releases in college football. Even against Syracuse last week when the Orange blitzed every play, WVU gave up only four sacks. On the year, the Mountaineers give up 1.5 sacks per game and Rutgers needs to double that number to keep the scoring down.

Three keys for a Rutgers win
Savon Huggins
1. Pressure Smith. Rutgers has to disrupt West Virginia's offensive rhythm to stand a chance. If this game becomes a shootout, the odds are heavily in favor of the Mountaineers.

2. Don't abandon the run. West Virginia is toward the bottom of the conference in rushing defense and true freshman Savon Huggins is building steam after a solid performance against Louisville. Add in anticipated rain and snow flurries and the run game is a major key for victory.

3. Flush It. A lot of key players made game-costing mistakes against Louisville. The best thing for veterans like San San Te and Mark Harrison to do this week is wipe away last week's blunders by treating this game as business as usual.

Three keys for a West Virginia win
1. Prevent the Big Play. When the Scarlet Knights get into long drives, they tend to make mistakes. The more plays during offensive drives, the more chances Gary Nova has of making a freshman mistake with the football.

2. Unleash Austin. Rutgers is faster defensively, but nobody has Austin Speed. The Mountaineers need to find a way to get him the ball in open space and allow him to do the rest.

3. Improve Kickoff Coverage. WVU is worst in the league in kickoff coverage. With Rutgers return man Jeremy Deering hungry for a chance to prove himself, the Mountaineers cannot allow the sophomore to have any big returns.

Rutgers, 21, West Virginia 20

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