Both Sides of the Fence

WVU head football Coach Rich Rodriguez admits that his team is a heavy favorite for Saturday's game against James Madison, but he knows from personal experience that the underdog in interdivisional matchups always has a chance.

"We should be favored, that goes without saying," Rodriguez said. "There's a big difference in money. But there are enough cases of 1AAs beating 1As to draw your attention. When I was a Glenville State and we were NAIA and Division II, we played a 1AA, and it was usually for the money. But we were competitive in a couple of games. We played Indiana State and lost 60-49. We threw 70 passes in that game, and it took about five I hours. I said we ought to get a cut of concessions because we kept everyone there so long.

"We also played Sanford in Chan Gailey's first game, and that went down to the last play. I think it was about 27-20. I always thought that if you have a good quarterback and a couple of good receivers that you have a chance, and we did that year."

Rodriguez believes that the Dukes have those elements, and notes that JMU head coach Mickey Matthews is no stranger.

"They have Louisville transfer Justin Rascati and some good receivers. It was kind of hard to evaluate him on film, because their last game was played in a hurricane. They have been good on defense too, which I think is their strength. I've known Mickey since I was at Glenville and he was the defensive coordinator at Marshall. Our coaches talked with him a lot, and we exchanged a lot of ideas. He came up and talked at some of our clinics. I think a lot of him. We have to be prepared for some tricky stuff on offense. They run an eight-man front like Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Virginia Tech, and force you to execute in the passing game."

Although WVU is playing this game to fill the gap left by the departure of dishonorable Miami, Rodriguez isn't averse to having a money game on the schedule. In fact, he foresees the approval of the 12-game season in the near future.

"We always make sure we have six home games," Rodriguez said as he explained his scheduling philosophy. I'm sure the administration wants that as well, in order to pay the bills. "Non-conference, I'd like one from a BCS in a home and home, like we have signed with Mississippi State. I'd prefer someone regional or where we recruit, which is where they fit in. Maryland is on the schedule for the foreseeable future too, and it's a nice rivalry.

The thing that may throw everyone for a loop would be if they approve the 12th game. I think it will happen because it brings more money in. We'll probably all be scrambling to find another game in the next year or two. I like 11 games because the season's over quicker and I sleep better," Rodriguez joked. "But the 12th game will probably happen.

"I don't think the physical wear and tear on the players is any worse, but the mental part might be. In other divisions and the NFL, you can lose games and get in the playoffs. But in Division 1, every game is so important; it's stressful on your team. The psychological aspects on an 18 or 19 year old can be tough."

RIFLE REPORTS

The injury front looks good, especially following such a physical contest as the one with the Terrapins. Guard Jeff Berk will be held out of contact work for a couple of days with a knee sprain, but is expected to be o.k. to play by Saturday. Kay Jay Harris is still not 100% but should be better this weekend.

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Rodriguez views linebacker Jay Henry as another starter.

"Jay Henry plays as much as anyone. He had a great spring and good fall camp. He's one of our smarter players, and I am really proud of him. I don't think he's made a B since he's been here. Sometimes classroom smarts don't translate to football. And I've had guys that are average students have great football smarts. In Jay's case, and Jeremy Hines', it does translate. If your linebackers, quarterbacks and center are your four football smartest guys, you'll be good. And free safety, because that's where I played," Rodriguez concluded with a smile. "Not that I was 4.0 or anything,"

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Miquelle Henderson graded out well (he was the offensive champion against the Terps) and as a result has moved back into the starting lineup. He will be opposite Chris Henry in two receiver sets. Brandon Myles, who "pressed a little bit", according to Rodriguez, will also play. Rodriguez also mentioned the need to get players such as Joe Hunter and Eddie Jackson more involved in the passing game.

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One group that didn't grade out as well as usual was the offensive line.

"We had some technique problems, and our pass protection wasn't as good as it can be," Rodriguez observed. We had two holding penalties, so there's a lot they can work on. I like their hard work and their ability to recognize what they did wrong and correct it. It's important to them, and they work extremely hard."


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