Things Of That Nature - Central Florida

Mountaineer head coach Rich Rodriguez's Sunday conference call with the media was just another extension of what the fourth year head coach has faced all season long.

Nobody wanted to talk about Central Florida, the team that WVU had knocked off less than 24 hours before. Instead, all the focus was on Maryland, the next team on the schedule and the matchup that has been analyzed and discussed since the first day the schedule was released. The Terrapins have been a thorn in the Mountaineer's side for years, and many will judge the success of the 2004 season almost entirely on this one game.

If Rodriguez is confident of anything, it is that his team will not be looking ahead for this one.

"I was really worried about them looking ahead in the first two, because all anybody wanted to talk about was Maryland," explained Rodriguez. "At least it is finally here and we can finally put all of our focus into it and not be concerned about looking ahead."

Although forward thinking may not be a problem this week, the Grant Town native does have plenty of worries to keep him awake through the night. West Virginia has lost to its neighbors from Maryland four times in the last four years, including a blowout loss in the Gator Bowl just eight months ago. Many faces are gone from last season's Gator Bowl championship team, but Friedgan's crew still presents plenty of worries.

"We are just now getting into watching some game's from this year's team," said Rodriguez. "But from what we have seen, they seem to be the same type of team that we have played for the last three years. They are an extremely talented group.

"From just looking at the stats, it looks like their new quarterback has played very well," continued West Virginia's head coach. "We will have to be ready to play and eliminate some of the mistakes."

Rodriguez explained that he could not pin point one area that has hurt the Mountaineers in their recent meetings with the Terps. Instead, he says, there are 100 different reasons why his team has not played well while Maryland has. But one big concern for Rodriguez is that his team does not put too much pressure on itself.

"I think we may have pressed too much last year and every mistake was magnified," Rodriguez explained. "We just have to make sure that we prepare as well as we can, relax, and go out and see what happens. There are going to be mistakes, but we have to shake them off and just move on. We have to take it one play at a time and not get too caught up in anything that goes on."

West Virginia should take a healthy team into this Saturday's contest, with only three players fighting injuries. According to Rodriguez, Ben Lynch, who has been fighting a shoulder injury, should be back to 100 percent by game time, and Bryan Wright, who ran the ball well in relief of Kay-Jay Harris against UCF, should be completely healed from a sprained ankle. Only Harris, who ran the ball just three times before suffering a hamstring injury in Orlando, is considered to be questionable.

"It is not a major hamstring injury, but it is just something that we are going to have to monitor," the West Virginia field general explained. "Our trainers are optimistic, but we have to be sure that Kay-Jay is mentally ready. He is a talented guy and we need to have him as another weapon on offense."

If Kay-Jay is out, the Mountaineers will have to rely on backups Jason Colson and Wright to carry the load. The decreased depth in the running game could also put more pressure on the passing game, but Rodriguez is confident that his senior quarterback would be up to the task.

"Rasheed really played well (against UCF)," said Rodriguez. "It was one of the best games I have seen him play. He was really sharp on his passes, he was in a rhythm, and he was really the big difference in the game offensively. He only missed one read the entire game."

The WVU defense, however, did not grade out quite as positively.

"We definitely didn't play our best game on that side of the ball," said Coach Rod. "We just didn't tackle well all game. There are some veteran guys that could have played a lot better, and if they don't start doing it we will have to look at some of the younger guys."

Young or old, the Mountaineers have both a major test and a major opportunity in front of them this week. West Virginia was ranked No. 7 when the latest polls came out on Sunday, but Rodriguez insists that all of that hype means nothing if his team does not fix its mistakes, focus on each game and continue to win.

The season's biggest hurdle to this point is just ahead and Rodriguez will soon know just what type of team he has on his hands.


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