Familiar Foe

Mountaineer head coach Rich Rodriguez is trying not to dwell on the past as his team prepares to face the Maryland Terrapins.

"Every year is a different team," Rodriguez said when asked about the confidence level of this year's squad. "This is a different team, and so is Maryland. I would hope our guys wouldn't lose any enthusiasm or emotion if we fall behind early, because that can happen. If we do, I hope there won't be any panic, because we have explosive guys too. We haven't handled that well in the past, but just playing better is the simplest way to make that happen."

Rodriguez doesn't expect any surprises in this year's contest, mostly because the Terps have been able to run what they wanted in the last three encounters.

"They could run, throw, play action and screen. They controlled the game offensively," Rodriguez recounted. "We didn't play well offensively. The last two games, we had 57 and 52 plays offensively. That's about 25 short of what you normally have. We had too many three and outs early. We didn't get a break for the defense, and those things combined made for a bad outcome. We need to get in a rhythm and get some first downs, and get some three and outs of our own.

"Their schemes look pretty similar," he continued. "You can see their players have grown up in their system. They are just plugging the pieces in now. They have executed well, and their offense was pretty flawless in the first half against Temple."

RIFLE REPORTS

Rodriguez had several observations on special teams, and the danger posed by Steve Suter, who he termed Maryland's "most dangerous player".

"It can be hard to kick the ball away from him if your punter isn't used to kicking it out of bounds," the WVU boss said of strategies to keep the ball out of Suter's hands. "You don't want to punt it 25 yards, because that doesn't change field position.

"I've told our team we may have to win a game on special teams alone. The last game against UCF, we had a good performance. We have lost the battle on special teams against Maryland the last three games, and that will be a big component, especially if it rains. I think special teams are even more important when the weather is bad."

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Kay Jay Harris is getting several treatments per day. He will not practice on Tuesday, but might be able to do a bit more tomorrow. The coaches are proceeding as if he will not be available.

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Rodriguez wasn't concerned about the effect of the weather on his team, but did have some sympathy for the fans.

"If the weather is crappy it will be the same for both teams. We'll have a plan in place for bad weather, but I hope it's good for the fans. We'll have a sellout crowd, and I'd like for the weather to be nice for them."

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Rodriguez was pleased with the play of Eddie Jackson, and noted that Charles Hales would be on the field against the Terps.

"Eddie had the one catch and the fumble, but he didn't make a lot of mental mistakes, and he blocked really well," Rodriguez observed. "He should be a bigger part of our offense as the season comes along. Hales didn't play because of some of the schemes we ran where we wanted to get a bigger guy blocking on a linebacker. Hales will play this week, I promise you that."

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Several comments have been made about WVU running a simplified scheme that the Terps have figured out. Rodriguez pooh-poohed such notions.

"It always comes down to your base. You have a few wrinkles and do a few different things, but it all boils down to who plays better, tackles better, blocks better, and executes better."

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Rodriguez joked that his wife Rita, who was in attendance at the press conference, wanted to ask a question.

"She gets more out of me here than at home," he said of his spouse, a former WVU cheerleader. "I can really recruit, can't I?"

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Rodriguez on Friedgen's comments about WVU's fans: ""I don't read the Washington Post. I think Ralph was just making a joke. Our fans are well-behaved, but I hope they make things difficult for Maryland with noise."

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Scouts from both the Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl will be in attendance at the game.


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