Shouldering the Load

Head coach Rich Rodriguez was disappointed in his team's performance against Virginia Tech from top to bottom, and he didn't hesitate to shoulder a good bit of the blame himself.

Rodriguez responded to questions about his play selection in a forthright manner.

"As coaches, we should have thrown a little more and thrown some shorter passes to get us into a rhythm, Rodriguez said of the offensive game plan, which was again dependent upon establishing the run. "I don't think we were sharp in reading coverages in the passing game, and we weren't sharp in running our routes. We're going to have to do something. If running game isn't picking up, we are going to change what we are running out of. We may change our formations, too. That's the one good thing, I think we have enough flexibility in our offense to change that and get it going."

If that sounds like Rodriguez is still married to the running game, well, that's only partly correct. He admitted that he may have become too dependent on the running game, especially in light of the type of runners the Mountaineers have featured in the last few seasons.

"I don't know if conservative is the right word, but maybe I've been too locked in into believing we can run it," Rodriguez admitted. "That can sometimes hurt you. Maybe that's where I was in the last game. You think you're going to get it cranked up at some point, but that goes against my entire philosophy. That's where I've gotten myself in trouble. You have to take what they give you to move the ball down the field. That's where I probably screwed up."

Rodriguez also noted that he has held a couple of "fire and brimstone" sessions with his players over the past two days, pointing out numerous mistakes and lack of effort in game films.

"I was disappointed watching the film. It was a poor performance all the way around, and it starts with me. We had an "old school" meeting with the players, and I didn't call anyone out by name, but I pointed them out on film. And I did it for the whole team. Everyone misses an assignment now and then, but not like that.

"I don't like having to do that. It's hard. I still have a headache. And as hard as you are on the players, you're harder on yourself. You second guess yourself on the bus ride back, while you're going to sleep, and watching film. ‘Should I have called that, or prepared for this?' But everyone does that.

"I gave the players an opportunity to talk back, too. I said ‘If you want to defend yourself, speak up now.' And it was kind of quiet. I still believe in our guys," Rodriguez continued. "It was just that some of the things we did were so uncharacteristic of our players and our football team. I thought it needed to be brought to their attention. And a lot of it was not just football. We talked about how to represent themselves as members of WVU, and I called a few out for lack of effort academically. I will not tolerate laziness on any part of being a student athlete. We're not going to stand for that."

Rodriguez related these details in a matter-of-fact manner, and it appears, as least from the coach's standpoint, that he is ready to move on to Connecticut. How the team handles it, of course, is another matter. RIFLE REPORTS

Rodriguez isn't surprised that UConn has been competitive this year. He noted that the Huskies destroyed Wake Forest last year, and that they played well against Boston College this season, even though the Eagles won that contest.

BC played great against them, but UC still moved the ball, and they controlled the Pittsburgh game from start to finish," Rodriguez observed. "They have a good atmosphere up there. At night, it's even more difficult, because of the extra tailgating.

"[Quarterback] Dan Orlovsky is probably the best pro prospect in league. He's a big guy and smart. You have to appreciate what he has done for the program, being a local guy and staying at home. He makes all the throws. He's a pure dropback passer, and I'm sure we'll be seeing him in the pros.

"We'd better be ready to put some pressure on him. Our defensive backs are having to cover a long time. We have to blitz better and get more pressure. Not necessarily a sack, but make him move around in the pocket some. I don't think he will take off as much – he will move around, get out of trouble, and look to throw it. Getting to him will be an issue."

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Kay Jay Harris was in a boot on Tuesday, and was termed "doubtful" for the UConn game. Rodriguez noted that Harris has suffered some bad luck with injuries, and is still learning how to deal with things on and off the field.

"Kay Jay is a good tailback when he is healthy, but this is new territory for him," Rodriguez said. "He's basically a second-year player, because I don't count two years of junior college or riding buses around in the minor leagues. We've been spoiled with Avon and Quincy. They stayed healthy. Kay Jay has had some bad luck.

"The thing to remember, though, is that I'm all about proving it on the field. You can talk all you want – I want you to show me on the field. The best players we have do that, and get better every game. We probably should have gotten Bryan Wright in there more last week, but he has missed as much practice time as anyone. Right now it's Colson, Wright and Williams."

* * *

Rodriguez noted that the offensive line played its worst game of the season to date, but that the move of Tim Brown to tackle in place of Garin Justice was not a reflection of Justice's play.

"We were trying to get better play at center, and that's why we moved Brown out. It was not really anything Garin did wrong. Hines may be getting back in shape to the point where he plays more. We may play Jeremy Sheffey more too - he's been nicked up. We need to get Travis Garrett in there too. We think we have eight linemen that can play."

* * *

Eric Wicks and Dee McCann are two other players who have likely earned some additional playing time. Both performed well in spots against Tech. Rodriguez is still looking for more production from his defensive line, however. Keilen Dykes could be in line for increased time against the Huskies.

* * *

With the Mountaineers having readjusted their practice schedule, the biggest concern is missed class time. Due to the Wednesday night kickoff, the team will miss two days of classes, rather than the usual one a road Saturday contest entails.

* * *

The majority of the coaching staff is on the road conducting visits during one of the allowed contact recruiting periods.


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