WVU defensive ends James Davis and Tim Love vs. Kent St. quarterback Josh Cribbs
Cribbs may not be the second coming of Michael Vick, but he has sparked the Golden Flashes with some nifty running - he leads the team with 118 yards.
WVU's edge rushers must keep Cribbs in the pocket and not allow him lanes in which to run. The Mountaineers have yet to devleop the upfield push that the defensive staff is looking for, and as a result opposing quarterbacks have had room to operate, whether it be in the pocket or on the run.
Without that pressure, much of the philosophy of the WVU defense crumbles - cornerbacks become isolated and linebackers get jammed up.
WVU guard Ken Sandor vs. Kent St. defensive lineman Aaron Mayer
Mayer, at nose guard in Kent's 3-4 defense, is the key to stopping running games. If he stands his ground against double teams, rushing can be a problem. If he can be moved, the run game flourishes.
Of course, WVU center Zach Dillow will be hitting Mayer on almost every play, but the key becomes the tandem block with one of the guards. We will watch Sandor this week, as he's expected to get the start at guard after grading out highly against Ohio. If Sandor can continue the play he showed against the Bobcats, look for WVU's backfield to roll up some big numbers.
WVU receivers Phil Braxton and Shawn Terry vs. Kent State cornerback Ray Coley
Coley will be taking over for the suspended Nashville Dyer, who was the Golden Flashes' best defender. The untested Coley will be giving up several inches to Braxton and Terry, but the apparent mismatch on paper might not be the foregone conclusion that everyone expects.
As the outside receivers (X and Z) in WVU's offense, Terry and Braxton have been up and down so far. It's true that they have been open and had some substandard passes thrown their way, but they have also missed opportunities of their own to make catches.
Terry has a respectable eight catches for 90 yards on the season, while Braxton has 7 for 68, but they should be recording larger numbers, especially in the area of yards per catch. This is the perfect opportunity for them to gain confidence and flex their considerable talents. If they don't do so this week, the question is, when?
THINGS TO WATCH:
Watch WVU's linebackers, rover and whip this week - they should be back closer to the line of scrimmage after playing read and react five yards off the ball against Ohio's flexbone attack.
The return of Shawn Hackett should also bolster this group, which needs to start making more tackles close to the line of scrimmage.
Upchurch is obviously benefitting from the attacking defensive style, but he is making the most of his opportunites. If he can just get a healthy running mate to take some heat off him, Upchurch will put up even beter numbers.
Spare an eye toward Upchurch this week. Is he getting double teamed? If he is, Antwan Lake or Sedrick Lewis should have some room to operate and make plays.
Watch for Brian King defensively this week as well. The sure-tackling King, who moved down to whip against Ohio after a week's worth of study, could see time again at cornerback this week. Such multi-positional talents are invaluable to a team that's short-handed as WVU.
The question is, can King (or any other player that switches positions) be mentally ready? When the game is being played out so quickly, snap reads and keys must be made in an instant, and it can be confusing when you've changed positions so quickly.
Another player to find is Corey McIntyre. Coach Rodriguez says that he could split time between linebacker and defensive end, which puts him in the same boat as King in terms of the mental side of the game.
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