WVU - Pitt Matchups

The Backyard Brawl has it all - including these matchups and items to watch as the game unfolds.


WVU cornerback Adam Jones vs. Pitt wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald

Well, duh. This one wasn't too hard to pick out of the pile of potential faceoffs. However, it's the way this showdown plays out that will be of great interest.

WVU will likely play a few games in the secondary to get Jones on Fitzgerald more, just as they did to lock him up on tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr. when the Mountaineers faced Miami. Changing defensive schemes can sometimes backfire, as moving players around too much can result in more harm than good.

The Mountaineers don't figure to blitz a great deal, as that strategy hasn't paid off much this year, so expect Pac Man to get a good bit of help as he tries to cover the best receiver in the nation. As a sidebar, watch as Pitt breaks the huddle to see how the Mountaineer defense reacts to Fitzgerald's positioning.

WVU free safety Brian King vs. Pitt quarterback Rod Rutherford

King has been on a remarkable run over the past three games, picking off five passes and throwing up a wall against opponents' deep routes.

Brian King
He'll have to do that and more against the Panther passing attack, which figures to test WVU's defense with a number of deep passes to not only Fitzgerald, but also Princell Brockenbrough and Kris Wilson.

King, who has done an outstanding job at covering the deep pass and not getting caught out of position, will have to do even more this week. He'll have to be even more active in pass coverage, and even if he helps blanket a Pitt receiver, must be aware that Rutherford isn't afraid to put a ball up and let his receivers try to make a play on it.

Watch for Rutherford to do everything he can into getting King out of postion and open up some deep routes for his wideouts or a seam route for his big tight end. The pressure will be on King, as it has most of the year, to keep all the Panther pass routes in front of him and not give up the big play.

WVU placekicker Brad Cooper vs. Pitt place kicker David Abdul

Neither kicker has had the type of season he has wanted, but a winning field goal in the Brawl would be just the right tonic to salvage what has been a difficult season for both players.

With each offense possessing one area of dominance that they should be able to capitalize on against the opposing defense, this game could easily come down to a turnover or a special teams play. And since we couldn't promote a matchup of a Pitt fumble vs. a WVU interception, a battle of the kickers seemed to be the next best area to examine.

After putting on a show during spring and fall prctice, Cooper has been a pedestrian 7-12 this season, including a 2-7 mark from thirty yards or further. Abdul has been no better, recording only an 8-16 season mark while gakking three kicks from inside 40 yards.

Which player will be able to put their problems aside to hit a big kick at the end of the game? We may well get the chance to find out.


Pitt is going to complete some passes. No, scratch that. Pitt is going to complete a lot of passes. It wouldn't be a surprise at all to see Rutherford complete thirty tosses and go over the 300 yard mark again.

The key, for WVU, is twofold. First, as we've discussed earlier, limit the big play. Make Rutherford complete seven or eight passes on a drive in order to score. Second, the Mountaineers must again make it tough for their opponent to punch the ball into the end zone when it gets close.

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WVU is faced with a dilemma against Pitt's passing game in another facet as well. West Virgina's best pass defense has been to drop seven or eight players into coverage and keep completions in front of them. However, that seems to be inviting disaster against a team with receiving weapons all over the field, as well as a mobile quarterback.

Does West Virginia add more rushers to the field? Do they bring some players from new posititons, such as perhaps a corner blitz or from the spur and bandit spots? Or do they continue with what has worked?

If they go with just the three man rush, WVU must hope that Rutherford gets in too big of a hurry and tries to force things in the pasisng game that aren't there due to coverage.

Keep an eye of West Virginia's defensive formations in passing situations. Do they employ the four man front again with Kevin McLee and Adam Lehnortt again? Or do they bring extra rushers out of the base defensive set?

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A pair of substitutes could get more playing time this week, and it will be interesting to see how they perform. With Erick Phillips' season-ending knee injury, Jason Colson could get a few more carries, and also a couple of more passes, against the Panthers. Colson has been lined up in the slot in recent games, and so far his routes have been limited to horizontal screens. Might we see something different this week?

Jason Hardee, who had two big pass knockdowns against Boston College, will also see his playing time rise. There's no doubt Jason has the talent to play and contribute, but how will he do if he goes 40 or 50 snaps instead of 20? Keep an eye on big number 95 in the third and fourth quarters to see how he is holding up.

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