Quarterback Matchup

While he didn't compare them directly, WVU head football coach Rich Rodriguez used many of the same terms when answering questions about the quarterbacks in Saturday's West Virginia – Virginia Tech matchup.

"I've always thought he was good," Rodriguez said of the sometimes-maligned Bryan Randall, who is the linchpin of this year's Virginia Tech offense. "He didn't have his best game against us last year, but two years ago he was up and down the field against us. We couldn't stop him. I think he's one of the better quarterbacks we play against. He's one of the leaders on that team."

Now, just change the name, and many of Rodriguez' comments would also apply to his own quarterback, the oft-maligned Rasheed Marshall. Despite being first in the Big East, and ninth in the country, in passing efficiency, Marshall continually absorbs shots about his ability. Not from the Mountaineer coach, however.

"He has been a great leader for us. In some of our biggest games, he's played his best football. He has a lot of respect on the team, and he manages the game well. What's more, he's even a better person. He's a perfect example of what a college student athlete should be, and a great example to our younger players."

While Rodriguez believes that his senior QBs progress has been something measured in slow and steady doses rather than big jumps, he does single out one game as a milestone in Marshall's growth.

"I think in 2002, when we were playing Miami at home, we were young, and he played what I thought was a tremendous game against one of the best defenses in the country," Rodriguez observed. "That game gave him a lot of confidence."

Another sign of Marshall's growth is the fact that the WVU coaching staff listens to his input, although not to the point of changing play calls on his own.

"He'll give some suggestions on the sidelines or give some signals from the field, but the way our system is set up, our coaches in the box have a better view of the defense," Rodriguez explained. "So, changing the plays is more of a coach thing. But, we listen to Rasheed a lot more than we did in the past."

Note that "confidence" and "leadership" are terms used to describe both quarterbacks. Both have earned great respect from their teammates, and both will be key players in Saturday's clash, even if neither puts up big numbers.

RIFLE REPORTS

Rodriguez knows that the task of going to Blacksburg and coming away with a win is a big one. He called the Hokies a team "with a tremendous amount of talent", both in their veteran corps and young players. That's one of the reasons that he counts the wins over Tech the last two years as two of the most important in his WVU career.

"No question that those are two of the biggest wins since I've been here," he reminisced. "The one two years ago at Tech was a big step for our program. It was in a tough environment, and we hadn't beaten a ranked team or a team as talented as Tech yet. That gave us confidence that we could win a close game and get the program moving in the right direction. That doesn't help us with this year's game, though," he concluded with a laugh.

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The fourth-year WVU coach also mentioned that he shouldn't have any trouble getting his team's attention this week.

"We were worried about it last week, Rodriguez recalled after his team came out with little emotion for the James Madison contest. "After one unemotional performance you should get back up no matter who the opponent is. We'll get it cranked up or we'll get embarrassed.

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Rodriguez also had to endure the obligatory questions about the schedule, which is apparently the only thing many writers can think about.

"We talk about not worrying where we are ranked, because it will all play out in the end, said Rodriguez, who has answered a variant of the same query at least 100 times since the season began. "Our players may have felt they had to win (over James Madison) impressively. I should tell them don't worry about what others think. Worry about what we think."

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Rodriguez also didn't see many similarities between last year's contest, a 28-7 blowout win over the Hokies in Morgantown, and this year's game, despite the visiting team in each contest coming in with a Top 10 ranking.

"I don't know if there are any parallels with last year's game or not. "We executed in all three phases last year. It was our best game of the season. I do know we are going to get their best shot."

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Despite three sacks against James Madison, Rodriguez wants more from his defensive line.

"The defensive line has been o.k., but would like to get more pressure. IT can be difficult with just three linemen, but we need to beat some one-on-one blocks. Ben Lynch has been a little banged up, so that has had an effect too. They know we need to raise it up a level." Tech gave up ten sacks against North Carolina State last week.

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Rodriguez hinted that some ongoing talks with other schools could keep WVU and Tech from resuming the series, which is scheduled to end with Tech's 2005 trip to Morgantown.


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