WVU-UCF Matchups

UCF's passing attack and West Virginia's ground game are in the spotlight in this week's matchups.

KEY BATTLES:

WVU defensive end Jason Hardee vs. UCF tackle Larry Peoples

Hardee has become a solid player along the line as the 2003 season has progressed, and one of the most important areas in his improvement has been his pass rushing. Hardee has recorded three of WVU's ten sacks this year, and also leads the team in quarterback hits with seven.

In Peoples, Hardee will be facing a redshirt freshman that has played fairly well. The Golden Knights have given up just 14 sacks while attempting 292 passes. However, Peoples does not have the experience that other tackles facing the Mountaineers have possessed, and Hardee's newfound proficiency on the pass rush could pay dividends for West Virginia in this faceoff. For West Virginia to be successful defensively, they need to limit Schneider's time in the pocket, and Hardee has been the best at getting to the quarterback in recent weeks.

WVU linebacker Grant Wiley vs. UCF quarterback Ryan Schneider

We're not talking about sacks here, although it would be nice to see number six get a few hits on Schneider. Instead, we're looking at Wiley's role in pass defense.



Grant Wiley
WVU's uber-linebacker doesn't have the straight line speed to cover a wide receiver in UCF's multiple wideout sets, but he has unsurpassed football instincts. One of those is his ability to get into passing lanes and bat away passes that would otherwise be receptions, as he has done four times this season.

Central Florida will likely test West Virginia's pass defense with a number of the crossig routes that Maryland and Miami used so successfully against the Mountaineers, so Wiley's ability to disrupt those plays will be critical to WVU's success.

WVU punt returners Adam Jones and Lance Frazier vs. UCF punter Matt Prater

Prater leads the nation in net punting while employing the same rugby style punt that West Virginia has used so successfully this year. Will WVU's familiarity with that kicking style help them to field the ball against Prater, who is setting records left and right at UCF?

Picking up a bouncing punt is a dicey proposition at best, and Pac Man is not noted for his aversion to taking risks. Will he still get the call against Prater, or will the Mountaineer coaching staff go with the less explosive, but more reliable, Frazier?

WVU has a decided turnover margin advantage in their head to head matchup with UCF, and the Mountaineers certainly don't want to have any silly giveaways, especially when they have forced the Golden Knights to punt.


THINGS TO WATCH

There could be a battle of the backups when WVU's offense is on the field and the rushing game is centerstage. Mountaineer fullback Moe Fofana and UCF middle linebacker Stanford Rhule are both battling injuries, and could either miss the contest or see their playing time reduced.

In light of UCF's suspect running defense, conventional wisdom has it that West Virginia would pound away with their running game, and that more I formations might be in order. However, with injuries possibly playing a part, it will be interesting to see how WVU attempts to exploit the Golden Knights' weakened run defense, and how the UCF coaching staff tries to react.

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Also of interest will be West Virginia's running style this Saturday. The Mountaineers ran right at Virginia Tech, and gained the vast majority of their yardage between the tackles. WVU negated Tech's pursuit speed by doing so, and instead forced the Hokie line to slug it out, which they could not do.

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Watch West Virginia's rushing plays against UCF, especially early on. WVU will likely test both inside power runs and outside stretch and zone plays to find which part of their ground attack works best. Once that has been established, expect the Mountaineers to continue to pound the ball on the ground throughout much of the contest.

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Watch for some new faces in West Virginia's passing formations this week. Superback Jason Colson, among others, could line up at times in the slot as a target for a pass. WVU has tried Kay Jay Harris at that spot, but he has had a tough time catching the ball consistently.


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