Defense On The Run

The Mountaineer run defense faces a very difficult challenge this weekend as they will try to handle what no one else has been able to this season - Maryland sophomore tailback Bruce Perry.

Perry, who leads the nation with 175 yards per game, has been dismantling teams this year with his shifty, cutback style. He has run for 533 yards on 67 carries, an eight yards per carry average, and five touchdowns in just three games.

Coach Rich Rodriguez knows that stopping Perry will be difficult. The key for his defense is to tackle better than in the first three games of the season, where the Mountaineers have given up an average of 241 yards per game on the ground.

"He's made a lot of people miss," Rodriguez said of Perry. "But we've got to tackle better. Part of tackling is technique, obviously, and some of it is desire. We've got to get more people to the ball and tackle better or they'll control the ball and control the clock."

One factor that could be a big boost to the front seven on Saturday would be if sophomore linebacker Grant Wiley, who Rodriguez still lists as "questionable," could return to the lineup.

The retern of Wiley, who Rodriguez deemed "probably the best player on the team," would help the front seven in several different aspects. It would create better depth at defensive end spot and at linebacker, both positions where Corey McIntyre has been getting valuable playing time.

Allowing McIntyre to move back to defensive end (which is not something McIntyre necessarily favors) will also take some of the strain away from Antwan Lake and David Upchurch by allowing Tim Love to slide into the tackle spot on occasion to form a solid rotation.

Depth has also been improving on the defensive line over the past week as Sedrick Lewis has seen significant playing time and has performed well while spelling Lake.

Also, with Wiley in the lineup, the Mountaineers defense would be at its healthiest since early two-a-days, granted Lake and Jason Davis's ankles are progressing as well as they are said to be.

Things could be looking up for the defensive front, but this should be a supreme test against a very good running offense in a hostile environment.

The return of Wiley is extremely significant as his play-making ability may be just the thing to jump-start this defense and improve their numbers against the run.

As in so many other areas, the game with Maryland will be a proving ground for the fortunes of the Mountaineer run defense in 2001.

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