Will It Ever End?

The same questions keep coming up from media members who apparently can't think of anything original to ask the head coaches of teams in the Big East conference.

"Coach, what is your repsonse to people who will say that [the Tech] game shows that you are a pretender and not a contender?"

"Rich, can you speak to being the #6 or #7 team in the country?"

"Coach, with only one team in the top 20, what do the other teams in the Big East have to do to remove the perception of it being a weak conference?"

On and on the questions roll from the mouths of witless drones only looking for the juicy quote, or, more increasingly, simply looking to fill a few inches of column space or a few seconds of airtime that would otherwise be devoted to the latest fad diet or advertisements for Elvis stamps from Grenada.

WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez has been taken to task for answering such questions testily, but after listening to them over and over and over and over and over (get the idea?), it's no wonder that he has grown weary of the issue.

On today's Big East conference call, both Rodriguez and Connecticut's Randy Edsall got the question, and both were obviously displeased with the theme, which ceased being a story several months ago.

"The perception that this league is weak is unfair," head coach Rich Rodriguez said in response to the fact taht WVU is the Big East's lone ranked squad. "The last time I checked, only one team in the league had a losing record. "The difference between number one and number 100 isn't as big as what it used to be.

"Look at Ohio State losing to Northwestern. Northwestern is not perceived to be good, but they are better than what people think."

UConn coach Randy Edsall agreed, and was even more vehement.

"It's becoming an old question and you get tired of answering it," the aggressive young coach said. "What people fail to realize is that there are still good temas in this conference. You aren't going to build it back overnight, but this is going to be a strong conference. People were saying the same things about the Big East in 1991 when it started. When things don't go well, there are always people out there willing to take shots at you."


Amazingly, there was actually a bit of time devoted to football talk after all the conference sniping was concluded.

Kay Jay Harris will be questionable with ankle and knee sprains for UConn, as will safety Lawrence Audena with a stinger (pinched nerve). Justin Dziak is the latest to join the hamstring pull brigade, and he is likewise questionable for the Huskies.

* * *

Rodriguez finally gave the first hint that the passing game was overlooked. Buried in comments about poor offensive line play was a note that the Mountaineers might have missed some opportunities to throw the ball.

"We didn't control the line of scrimmage. They pushed us around a little bit. They loaded up the box, and we could have thrown a few more passes. It wasn't a good game for us up front.

* * *

The practice schedule will be backed up three days, with freshmen and reserves perhaps getting some scrimmage time later in the week.

"We'll back everything up as if next Wednesday was a Saturday," Rodriguez said. "We won't have practice on Monday, then we'll go light on Tuesday. 'We'll have full contact Wednesday and Thursday, and maybe scrimmage with the younger guys after one of those days."

* * *

With running back productivity way down, the time may have come to get freshman Pernell Williams in the game. Rodriguez noted "the time hasn't been right" to do so yet, but said he expects Williams to play against UConn. Prospects for Erick Phillips' return appeared dimmer, as another strength test is not scheduled until next Wednesday. Once he is cleared to resume practice, it would still likely be 2-3 weeks before he could return to game action, and with the season slipping away, it may be time to begin thinking about next year for the talented Ohioan.

* * *

In the best example of futility since Sisyphus, Rodrgiuez said he will again send tape of the blown calls from Saturday's game to Big East coordinator of officials John Soffey. This, of course, is about as useful as hoping that Barry Bonds will eventually say something nice.

* * *

Rodriguez is the first to admit that his team has a futile pass rush, but notes that he has tried just aobut everything to generate pressure.

"We can't have QBs stand with that much time to throw," Rodriguez said with more than a hint of frustration. "We've known that's been a problem since day one, but it still hasn't happened. We have looked at some different personnel, and tried different things in both practice and games. We'll continue to do that and see if someone can make a play.

"We want to force a team to be one dimensional, and the 3-3-5 forces a team to throw. Some of breakdowns we've had have been mental, not physical. There have been missed assignments. We weren't as intense in this game at times as we needed to be, but we'll get to work on that very quickly.

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