Eyes On The Future

As might be expected, head coach Rich Rodriguez remains excited about the win over Virginia Tech on Wednesday. However, the third-year coach is already concentrating on keeping his team on an even keel as they prepare for Central Florida this Saturday.

"We're very happy with the win over Tech," Rodriguez noted on Monday. "It was a great atmosphere and an excellent win over a quality program. We played hard and well in all three phases, but I still think we can play better in certain areas. I am pleased with the effort, intensity and focus our young men showed. They did a great job of preparing this week.

"Since I've been here as head coach, it was probably our biggest win. Beating Penn State and Boston College back to back in 1984 as a player was pretty big, too. But as a coach, you don't want to get too high or too low, because there are so many games. They all count as one. Hopefully this win will give us some confidence and let us keep playing at a high level.

Just as he did after WVU's narrow loss to Miami earlier this month, Rodriguez seemed anxious to dispense with the talk of last week and begin looking ahead. This time, its Saturday's homecoming clash with Central Florida that has the Mountaineer mentor's attention.

"I've been telling the team that all games are big. They all count as one," Rodriguez analyzed. "This game gives us a chance to get back to 4-4. We want to continue to prepare like we did last week. UCF is dangerous, and they have their quarterback healthy now. It will be a challenge to see if we can play the way we did last week."

Although Knights' quarterback Ryan Schneider reinjured his shoulder late in the Knights' win over Western Michigan, he is expected to play against WVU. He has tossed a touchdown pass in 27 consecutive games for UCF, and is the focal point of the program.

Rodriguez believes that, perhaps more than any other opponent, Schneider is a one-man indicator for his team's success.

"He's the key to their entire team. They've had success when he's in there, and struggled when he's not. He's a fifth-year senior, and a leader. He has thrown the ball well against good teams, and they are probably more optimistic now that he is back.

"He's one of the better quarterbacks in the country. From accuracy standpoint, he is similar to Dante Culpepper. He's not as big, but very few of his passes don't hit the mark. He'll stand in there and take a hit."


Rodriguez believes a major factor in keeping WVU's momentum is improvement during practice.

"The key is continue to get better. The defense has gotten better the last few weeks. The offense has gotten better in spots, and special teams have gotten better. We must do that each week We didn't do that against Rutgers, and we've talked about that a great deal.

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Rodriguez is not sold on the idea that playing tougher teams helped prepare the Mountaineers for their battles with Miami and Rutgers.

"It might let you know better where you are and what you need to work on, and what guys are in the right positions," Rodriguez said. "But as far as battle-hardening, I'm not sure that's so much the case. Playing big games on national TV are going to get both teams fired up."

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