Up the Grading Scale

While head coach Rich Rodriguez still enumerates a number of items that need attention on his football team, he believes that the Mountaineers made progress toward the goal of playing their "A" game in Wednesday night's contest against Syracuse.

"That's about right," Rodriguez said when asked about Rasheed Marshall's assessment of WVU's play as a "B". Particularly running the football, I though we did well. We had about eight to ten plays where we had one guy lose a block or do the wrong thing, and we have to get those corrected, but I am pleased with the win. Out intensity and our effort were good."

In a strange reversal from the norm, Syracuse controlled the ball for more than 33 minutes, despite throwing 37 passes. WVU, meanwhile, had the ball for just more than 26 minutes, despite 50 rushing attempts against just 12 passes.

"I am concerned about the time of possession, because we only had the ball four times in the second half," Rodriguez said. "That makes you nervous when you don't have the ball and aren't controlling it. Two of our ten possessions ended the halves, and we only had 62 plays, which would be ok if you were scoring a lot."

The fifty runs were effective, as ball carriers Jason Colson, Rasheed Marshall, Kay Jay Harris and Pernell Williams combined for 288 yards on the ground.

"We probably should have gotten Pernell (who didn't play until the fourth quarter) in there a little earlier," Rodriguez said. "But, we wanted to get some of the rust off Kay Jay, and the low number of plays we had also worked against that. Jason has a little extra juice when he plays against Syracuse, and he played well. He had some nice reads. Kay Jay played o.k."


Rodriguez was philosophical about his team's last two games, which bumped up against baseball playoffs and a presidential debate.

"It's the luck of the draw," Rodriguez observed. "I'm not sure what the ratings were, but I know we've had some of ESPN's highest rated games in previous years. "It is good for recruiting to be on primetime TV, and I'm not sure how much the debate might have hurt us, but I'm sure the baseball playoffs did a little bit."

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Today's jayvee game against Hargrave will be the start of a busy weekend for the coaches. While the players will get a couple of days off, much of the coaching staff will be on the road recruiting. Rodriguez will be heading to New York, and is expected to pay a visit to Long Island verbal commitment Jason Gwaltney and Scooter Berry, among others.

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The penalty problem was slightly improved, with only eight flags flying against WVU for a total of 60 yards. The Mountaineers also avoided personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct infractions.

"I thought one or two of the procedure calls were really close," Rodriguez said. "I thought we were right on the mark, but they called them, so you have to deal with them.

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Syracuse broke two long returns on WVU's first two kickoffs, which prompted the Mountaineers to switch kickers (Brad Cooper came in to replace Eric Daugherty) and strategies (WVU went to a pooch kick).

"A couple of guys got pushed out of their lanes," Rodriguez said of problems with the coverage. "We need to take a good look at that team."

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Erick Phillips will be tested again on Friday to determine if his surgically repaired knee is ready for full action. If his knee tests out at 85%, he will be able to return to full participation in practice.

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Although WVU did get three sacks against the Orange, Rodriguez saw the opportunity for several more.

"We are trying to get fast guys on the blitz, because we had some open lanes, but we weren't able to get there before the ball was gone," Rodriguez said. "We've done the corner blitz (with Adam Jones) in almost every game this year, and that was one of those. We'll have to look at ways to get faster, more athletic guys on the blitzes."

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