Defender of the Realm

Beep....This is a recording. Coach Rod can't control WVU's schedule, or the fact that Miami and Virginia Tech lied and left the conference...Beep

At every media opportunity this year, head coach Rich Rodriguez has been peppered with questions about the Big East conference, WVU's position as the standard bearer, and whehter or not the Mountaineers deserve the high ranking they currently enjoy.

You have to give credit to Coach Rod, who patiently answers the repetitive questions from supposed giants of the journalism profession, who apparently can't think of anything more relevant to ask than 'What's it like to be in a conference without Miami and Virginia Tech'?

So, for the 1000th time, Coach Rod responds.

"Last year we tied for for the conference championship and two years ago were were second," Rodriguez said on Tuesday. "I think it's going to bear out that there are a lot of quality Big East teams on the schedule.

"All the criticism headed toward us, it's not like we decided to leave the conference. We can't worry about what other people are saying. If we continue to get better, it helps everyone. The perception that the Big East is weak, which I think is false, doesn't apply to West Virginia. It's just stuff for people and the media to talk about. It's not important to us."

Let's hear it for Coach Rod! The only thing he needs to do now is make a copy of his speech, and simply hand it to the next 1000 talking haeds that ask the same question. This might have been a story last year while Miami, Tech and Boston College were sneaking out of the conference like the NFL Colts leaving Baltimore, but give it a rest.

In the few moments Rodrigez had left on Tuesday's Big East conference call, he did manage to make a couple of comments about Saturday's game.

"The positioning of this game probably makes it more dangerous," Rodriguez said of the Dukes' spot between Maryland and Virginia Tech on the schedule. "We know Tech will be highly emotional game just like last year, and like Maryland was last week. This game was scheduled as an opener for next year, but everyone was scrambling for a 2004 opponent. Fortunately James Madison was willing to move."

Rodriguez also discussed the Atlantic 10 as being analagous to the MidAmerican Conference in 2003, and noted that he won't be giving anyone the week off as WVU prepares for the Dukes.

"The A10 is starting to become the statement conference of this fall, with the Maine and New Hampshire wins, and then William and Mary taking North Carolina to the fourth quarter. We're going to scheme for James Madison. We aren't lanning to rest anyone. Our focus each week is on what we need to correct and improve. We have made some improvements, but we haven't come close to playing our best game yet."

Rodriguez also noted that his playcalling on Saturday reflected his strategy to protect the lead, and was an indicator of the strength of the WVU running game relative to its passing attack.

"It's easier to keep a lead and keep the defense fresh when you can run it. We've struggled at times, in the passing game, and we have to improve the intermediate routes and the play action game. We have had some success, but it has to get better."

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