Mountain News & Notes

An overlooked part of the football story, building basketball team chemistry and more is on the mind of our resident oracle this week.

Prior to the season, head football coach Rich Rodriguez said that avoiding turnovers was a priority in his offensive scheme. Amid all the discussion of the passing game woes and defensive gaps, we've lost sight of the turnover issue.

Perhaps that's a good thing, because that story is even worse than WVU's rushing defense. The Mountaineers have given the ball up twenty four times in seven games, tying them with Duke, San Diego State, and UTEP in that category. Only one team in the nation is worse that West Virginia at hanging on to the ball. Fortunately, that team is this week's opponent - Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have coughed it up on twenty seven occasions this season.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez is aware of the turnover issue, and lists taking care of the ball as priority one against Rutgers on Saturday.

"We've got to cut down on the stupid turnovers," Rodriguez noted Monday. "When we get in position to make a play, we have to finish it."

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The suspension of Chris Garnett for violation of team rules will have an impact on WVU's early play. The Mountaineers desperately need Garnett to complement the presence of John Oliver at the five spot and ease the pressure on forward Chris Moss in the lane. With Garnett missing a minimum of ten days due to his suspension, a valuable chunk of practice time has been lost.

The same factor, for different reasons, will affect WVU's guards, as Drew Schifino missed several practice sessions while the NCAA Clearighouse twiddled their collective thumbs during his approval process.

As the coaching staff tries to blend a talented batch of newcomers with returning seasoned veterans, every bit of practice time is critical, and the loss of time by two of WVU's top nine players will definitely affect the chemistry and rotation in November and December.

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Returning to football, the quarterback injury front is improving. Brad Lewis will practice this week and is expected to be 100% on Saturday, while Rasheed Marshall is awaiting the results of a bone scan. If that scan turns out ok, Marshall will begin throwing and basic drills during practice. Even with such an outcome, Marshall is probably still a couple weeks away from any game action.

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The time honored tradition of the "players-only" meeting was dusted off at the Mountaineer football complex over the weekend, as the seniors addressed the team in an attempt to refocus their efforts for the season's final month.

The effectiveness of these events is open to debate - they always seem to be held by teams that are struggling, and there don't seem to be many instances where a magical turnaround materializes from one meeting. At least, however, it looks like the players haven't given up on the season.


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