Match-Ups: WVU - LSU

WVU will need to come out on top in all of our featured areas if it hopes to knock of the second-ranked Tigers on Saturday night.

BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Sat 9/24/10 8:00 PM

Morgantown, WV

Mountaineer Field
Record: 3-0
Polls: 16/16
Last Game
Maryland W 37-31
TV: ABC
Radio: MSN/Sirius
Web: BlueGoldNews.com
Record: 3-0
Polls: 3/2
Last Game
Miss St W 19-6
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2011 Schedule

Series: LSU 1-0
First Meeting: 2010
Last Meeting: 2010
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2011 Schedule

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast


MATCH-UPS AND STORYLINES

WVU Nose Tackle Jorge Wright and Josh Taylor vs. LSU Center P.J. Lonergan

While LSU's defense gets a great deal of deserved attention, the most important battle in this game might boil right down to the center of two lines. It's there where Wright and Taylor will have to hold their ground against Lonergan and the inside running game of LSU.

In last year's contest, the Mountaineers gave up 150 rushing yards to the Tigers, including 116 to the now departed Stevan Ridley. That, however, was with stalwarts such as Chris Neild up front. This year, LSU is averaging 166 yards per game on the ground, and will certainly try to bludgeon WVU's less stout defensive line, particularly in the middle, where it was vulnerable in the second half against Maryland last week.

Wright and Taylor aren't going to grow or add weight in the next day, so they will have to rely on solid technique to stand their ground. They have to keep LSU's line from getting lower than they are ("pad under pad") and will have to maintain their own leverage in order to keep from getting moved out of their positions.

Obviously, it's not all on the nose tackles to keep LSU from dominating the ground game. Linebackers have to get off blocks, and safeties have to swarm to the ball. But at the snap, the first couple of seconds of action in the middle of the line will set the tone for West Virginia's efforts to stop the run. .


BATTLE OF FORMATIONS

West Virginia tries to put defenses in uncomfortable alignments and settings. LSU relies on superior athletes to stop opposing offenses. Will the Tigers react to the Mountaineers' different sets with lots of substitutions?



Tavon Austin
West Virginia has shown everything from three running backs stacked around Geno Smith in the diamond formation to five-wide, empty backfield sets. The key to those different formations? Create mismatches which can be exploited. Whether it's isolating a slot receiver on a linebacker, or getting a wideout all the way across the field to force switches in zone coverage, it's all about taking advantage of a defense's inability to cover everything that's presented.

Unfortunately, LSU counters with speed across the board. Its linebackers run like defensive backs, and its linemen like linebackers. Getting a wide receiver in single coverage against a linebacker is good in most instances, but against the Tigers it might not yield the advantage it does against other teams. While LSU does feature nickelback Tyrann Mathieu against spread offenses (he has 24 tackles in three games, and has played a great deal against spread offenses such as Oregon's) the Tigers probably won't change up much from down to down. They do roll defensive linemen in and out of the game, but they typically play the same scheme, and don't figure to show much different than the standard 4-3 front, with Mathieu taking the place of a linebacker at times.

If the formations don't decide things, West Virginia will be faced with the alternative of winning the head to head battles. It will have to rely on its receivers and backs to "make plays". That is, in one-on-one situations, Mountaineers must win the face-off. They must get the 50-50 ball in the air. They must make the first tackler miss. They must make a spectacular grab. They must block rushers head up, one-on-one. That's what most games between highly-rated teams come down to – the ability to win the majority of those match-ups. Last year's game was a close one, but turnovers and a big play in the punt game allowed the Tigers to escape with a win. West Virginia must reverse those outcomes to return the favor.


THINGS TO WATCH

All Mountaineer fans know that night games at WVU usually bring out good performances from their team. There's a buzz that is infectious, and we're certainly not discounting that. But will it affect LSU? Probably not. The Tigers routinely play in front of crowds that exceed West Virginia's by 30,000 or more, and they are just as riled up as the WVU faithful are. That doesn't mean the crowd can't have an effect, of course. A lot of noise can force foes to adjust signals and means of snapping the ball, and affect verbal communications. Just don't expect the Tigers to get frazzled by the taunts and screams.

* * *

While LSU relies on a base defense due to its outstanding talent, West Virginia has been staying in its 3-3 look for much of the first three games due to the newness of players at key positions. Last year, the Mountaineers' experienced group was able to jump around and disguise coverages. It would bring linebackers and safeties up on the line of scrimmage. It would slide the second level to one side or the other, and not stack the 'backers immediately behind the linemen. And it would blitz, and fake blitzes, from a number of different angles. All of those items helped to confuse offenses, and sometimes created unblocked defenders who would respond with tackles for losses and sacks.

This year's defense, through no fault of its own, hasn't been able to do that yet. Last year's experienced, veteran-laden unit was in just the same boat a couple of years prior, but it learned, gained experience and grew into a national power in 2010. This year's group is in a similar situation. There's lots of talent, especially in the secondary. But it's still a work in progress.

One other item that has hurt West Virginia's defense tremendously has been the limited play of Julian Miller. Hampered by an ankle injury through much of fall camp, Miller has been only a part-time performer in 2011. That has hurt WVU from an experience standpoint, and also on its pass rush. The Mountaineers have just one sack and no hurries through three games, and while part of that is due to opponents' tactics of throwing the ball quickly from very short drops, it also shows the Mountaineers aren't getting to opposing QBs even when they hold the ball longer.

Keep an eye on West Virginia's pre-snap alignment this week. Are they still showing base much of the time? Or is this the week Jeff Casteel thinks his troops are ready to mix it up a bit more?

* * *

Finally, big plays are going to play an even bigger than normal role in this game. WVU probably won't be able to mount five or six long scoring drives, so it's going to need to find a way to strike quickly. Of course, this also plays into the topic of winning one-on-one battles that we discussed earlier. The Mountaineers will need to make a big catch on a deep ball, or get a post pattern or slant route, break a tackle and turn it into a score. To win the game, West Virginia will have to have at least two of these types of touchdowns, whether on offense or defense.


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