Rodriguez will combat that defense with WVU's powerful running game and newfound passing prowess, but admits to still being skittish when it comes to airing it out.
"I'm hard headed," Rodriguez joked when asked why the Mountaineers continue to run the ball far more than they throw it. "I guess I'm just too conservative, but I didn't used to be that way," he added with a laugh. "You have to force yourself to throw it when you see the safeties are all up in there. But you ask yourself, 'Can you protect? Can you catch the ball, and get it there?'"
Rodriguez went on to explain that he'd much rather stop the run than the pass, and that philosophy also holds on the other side of the ball. It was illustrated for all to see in WVU's 52-31 smacking of Pitt, when the Mountaineer running game finally wore down and demolished the demoralized Panther offense.
"From a defensive standpoint, when you can't stop someone running, it's demoralizing. Teams that throw all over the lot, sure, it's frustrating. But when teams just run on you, it's really tough. You don't get the ball.
If we don't make them involve ther safeties in run support, then we are in trouble. If they can stop us with their front seven we have problems. I'm concerned about that because we didn't block #93 at all last year. We need to establish ourselves on first down. Get some drives going and make some first downs, even if we aren't scoring."
"I don't want to say Walter Reyes is underrated, because people knoew about him before the season. He's very prductive, and does a number of things well. He blocks well and catches the ball well, and runs hard. No question he is one of the best backs in our league.
"He's a little different type of runner than Quincy. Reyes is a little shiftier than Quincy, who is more straight line, but maybe not as shifty as Avon."
Overall, Rodriguez is also worried about the multiple looks and constant shifting that has become a hallmark of the Syracuse offense.
"We can't let Syracuse get in a rhythm offensively. They do so much in terms of formations and motions. If they get into a rhythm, it gets you on your heels. They've had some games where R. J. Anderson has been on fire. The BC game he was unstoppable, and was the best player on the field. I think he's comfortable, and the number one reason they have had success."
Pat Liebig's MRI has confirmed that he has a torn ACL knee ligament. The injury will keep him out for the remainder of the season. Ben Lynch and Ernest Hunter could play some end, with Craig Wilson getting more playing time at the nose. Chris Malamet will still be redshirted if at all possible, so Warren Young will be counted upon to get ready in a hurry.
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In other injury news, Erick Phillips is undergoing surgery on his two torn ligaments today. The rest of the walking wounded, with the exception of Josh Bailey, will be limitied in practice over the next day or two but are expected to play on Saturday. Bailey, with a shoulder injury, remains day to day.
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Rodruguez believes that the lighting in the Carrier Dome is one of the otugher things to adjust too.
"When you combine the crowd with a different type of scenery and the noise factor makes it a little bit different. We have to get accustomed to the lights, and get used to punts and deep passes. A lot of our players have been in there, but some haven't. So, we'll try to prepare as best we can, but the best way to get the out of it is to make some plays early.
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Rodriguez continues to emphasize the importance of ball security.
"We emphasize taking care of the ball, and run a lower-risk offense., I think our players on both sides understand the importance of the ball. We have some guys like Grant Wiley that excel at stripping it, too. Syracuse is also very good at that. We can't afford to not take care of the ball. If we lose the turnover margin, we probably lose the game. We;re not good enough to win when we play poorly."
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Rodriguez also is happy with the performance of cornerback Lance Frazier, who bounced back from a rough start to play a big part in WVU's win over Pitt.
"Frazier has been really solid. I thnk he's playing with confidence, as a senior should. This year, he's making something happen on punt returns too. Some of the guys are helping him with blocking, but he is doing a good job of creating things. We had five guys not block anybody on his 72-yard return, but he made something happen. He's also getting competition from Adam Jones, which is making him better.
"We don't have a pattern with them on returning punts - it's whoever feels fresh. Lance is good back around our own ten yard line and making the good decision and faking the coverage out. Sometimes it might depend on who is winded, but a lot of the time it's just whose turn it is."
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Rodriguez also commented on Wiley's naming as one of the five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Award.
"It's a great honor for Grant, and for what he has meant to us thruugh his career. He has been the rock of our defense. His intensity level is unmatched. He's a talented guy, but he plays the game they way you want to play it."