WVU - Rutgers Matchups

Battles in the passing game highlight this week's items to watch as WVU hosts Rutgers.

KEY BATTLES:

WVU wide receiver Chris Henry vs. RU defensive back Nate Jones

Rutgers' best and most experienced corner will figure to draw a number of assignments against Henry, who has been West Virginia's only downfield threat in the passing game this year.

At six feet tall, Jones will be giving up a good bit of height to Henry, who has shown the ability to attack the ball and catch it over defenders. His catch against a Miami doubleteam got WVU back into the game after falling behind 19-10.

The Mountaineers, after 2 1/2 years under Rich Rodriguez, are still struggling to find an effective and consistent passing attack. Is this the week that WVU will stretch the field at least once or twice per quarter?

Henry, who doesn't like talking to the media, has spoken volumes with his early play on the field. Can he continue to progress and give the Mountaineers some life in the passing game? And more importantly, will WVU try to increase their utilization of this weapon?

WVU tackle Jeff Berk vs. RU defensive end Raheem Orr

Orr, who leads the Big East in sacks with five, might be the biggest test that the versatile Berk has faced all year. Orr uses a combination of quickness (he came to Rutgers as a linebacker) and strength to get to opposing quarterbacks. He has a variety of moves, and when opposing linemen get too concerned about countering, he will use a speed rush to simply blow by opposing blockers.



Jeff Berk
Berk, who suffered a dislocated finger in pregame warmups against Miami, demonstrated his toughness when he had it set in the locker room and made it back on the field for the opening snap. Essentially playing with one hand, Berk did a solid job against the Miami defensive front, and will have to do so again to give Rasheed Marshall time to operate.

Berk is familiar with playing shorthanded - he played with a broken hand during part of last season. However, there's no doubt that the limited use of his right hand will have an effect as he battles Orr. Watch Orr to see if he tries to attack Berk's right side early in an attempt to test the wounded hand.

Orr, of course, is the brother of former WVU defensive back Tommy Orr.

WVU free safety Brian King vs. RU wide receiver Shawn Tucker

Tucker has become a second receiving threat for the Scarlet Knights, and as a result their passing attack has progressed from abysmal to solid. The sophomore wideout is averaging more than 17 yards per catch, and is starting to get downfield with regularity.

King will be faced with a different sort of challenge this week. Last week, he was helping out a lot on slot receivers and working against crossing routes. This week, the Scarlet Knights figure to throw the ball downfield more, and as a result King will be under the gun to provide deep help.

As an aggressive defender, King isn't afraid to stick his nose into pileups. Although Rutgers employs a form of the West Coast offense this year, watch for them to try to use King's aggressiveness against WVU and test him early with some play action passes to get him out of the middle of the field.


THINGS TO WATCH

Other than Wake Forest, Rutgers might use their fullback more than any other school in the country that doesn't run the wishbone.

Fullback Brian Leonard has 61 touches for 453 yards and two scores so far this year, and is an integral part of the Scarlet Knights' offense.

Keep on eye on how WVU defends the multitalented Leonard. WVU will be forced to account for him on almost every play, which will keep the Mountaineer defense from swarming other ball carriers with the number of defenders they are normally used to.

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Rutgers' pass rush isn't just limited to Raheem Orr. The Scarlet Knights have 14 sacks in five games, and lead the Big East conference in that stat.

Of course, some observers might say that Rutgers' sack total was run up against patsies, but that's not entirely accurate. The Knights had three against Virginia Tech last week.

So, asusming that the Rutgers rush isn't a mirage, how will WVU attack it? Look for some draws, especially from quarterback Rasheed Marshall, as the Mountaineers try to use the Knights' pressure against them.

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One final thing to watch is the attitude and demeanor of the Rutgers players, especially if they give up some points or encounter a bad break.

Last year, WVU led just 2-0 at the end of the first quarter and by only 16-0 at the half, but after WVU's second touchdown of the day it was easy to see that the Knights had thrown in the towel.

That's not the case this year. Rutgers has continued to battle, even when down by a big margin to Virginia Tech and when trailing Michigan State. One punch won't score a knockout in this year's contest.


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