Challenge Upgrade

Head coach Rich Rodriguez is adamant in his belief that Cincinnati will be a far tougher opponent than last week's foe.

"Cincinnati probably has better speed than we do, and they didn't have to throw the ball against East Carolina," Rodriguez said as he looked ahead to Saturday's matchup with the Bearcats. "I hope we don't get in a shootout with them. I know they are pretty explosive on offense. (Quarterback Gino) Guidugli gives them a chance to always be in the game. I have a lot of respect for him, because even if he's not having his best game, he knows he can bring his team back. He's the guy they center their offense around."

Guidugli wasn't the only UC player that Rodriguez was impressed with after breaking down the UC-ECU game. In fact, he didn't even think he was the best player on the field.

That honor went to lightning quick defensive end Trent Cole, who wreaked havoc in the Pirate backfield all day. Cole, who had 10 tackles, including two for losses, as well as a sack, is on the preseaosn watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award, given to the nation's top defensive end.

"Cole was the single most dominant player on the field on either side of the ball," Rodriguez said. "He plays extremely hard, and he'll run right by you if you aren't solid on your technique."

On the strategy front, Rodriguez expects to see more of the same line-crowiding tactics that East Carolina employed, despite the success WVU had throwing the ball.

"We expect Cincinnati to load up the box. They are a little more athletic than ECU, and they put more players in the box in a little different way than East Carolina did. We still have to make a good effort to get the ball down the field more, and to more players than Chris Henry."

Speaking of Henry, Rodriguez doesn't expect the wide receiver's two touchdown performance to go to his head. He noted that while Henry is improving, he is still far from a polished performer.

"Henry still has a long way to go. We're trying to force feed him, and he's starting to be a little more comfortable and confident. Right now we are still picking our spots with him, but he has a great future.

"He has to get better at his route running and blocking, and at using his speed to get on top of defensive backs."

In addition to Henry, the Mountaineer receivers "were better in the last game than they were in the first game," but they still have consistency issues to deal with.

"We don't just look at what they do with the ball," Rodriguez explained. "They are getting more confident, but we're not at a consistent level from a route running and blocking standpoint. We were average at best (against East Carolina). We did catch the ball really well, which is obviously good. We didn't have any drops. But our best game as a group is still out there. The ability is there, and the effort is getting better. I know Coach Bird is working very hard on it."


WVU's 5-0 margin on turnovers against the Pirates was a continuation of last year's large positive turnover ratio.

"If you look at who leads the country in turnovers, they usually have winning records. I've been very fortunate to have quarterbacks that take care of the ball and running backs that are conscious about ball security. It's always one of our keys to victory. Normally if you have no turnovers you have a pretty good chance to win the game."

* * *

West Virginia's two senior cornerbacks "give us a lot of flexibitility on what we can do coverage wise," according to Rodriguez. "They are a pair of cagey veterans."

* * *

Rodriguez also commented on the induction of Don Nehlen into the WVU Hall of Fame.

"To be recognized by your peers is great,but to be recognized at your own school shows that you left a great mark on your university. Every coach and athlete wants to achieve that honot. It's nice to get voted in to any Hall of Fame, and to be enshrined that quickly is a really nice honor.

* * *

On the injury front, safety Jahmile Addae is probable.

"His treatment is going ok. Saturday he wouldn't have been effective due to a lack of mobility. Anthony Mims played pretty well, but someone with Addae's experience will be helpful against a quarterback like Guidugli."

* * *

Rodriguez is also guarding against a letdown of the sort that occured last year in the Queen City.

"Our players should know not to relax if they get a lead," Rodriguez said as he recalled the 35-17 lead that evaporated last year. "We have to make sure we are solid for four quarters."

Mountaineers Daily Top Stories