Not So Easy

While Temple's 1-7 record leads most people to roll their eyes and assume an easy win, the numbers in the Owls recent games against WVU say otherwise.

"Our guys that are seniors remember 2001," head coach Rich Rodriguez said of WVU's loss to the Owls three seasons ago. "And last year's game was 14 points or so with five minutes to go. And we had the Big East co-championship at stake."

Of course, it might take some fast talking for Rodriguez and his staff to convince their team that the Owls pose a serious threat, but they will have some evidence to back up their warnings. Chief among those will be film of 6-3, 250-pound quarterback Walter Washington, who is as tough to bring down as most running backs.

"We still haven't tackled Walter Washington," Rodriguez said of Temple's do-everything QB. "He fell over us a few times last year, but we didn't tackle him. He's the key to their offense, and he's the one guy we have to stop. They aren't hesitant to run him between the tackles on isolation plays."

In order to slow down the bruising Washington, Rodriguez says gang tackling will be the order of the day.

"We have to get more people to the ball. If our defensive backs are tackling him, we aren't going to win too many of those battles. Heck, our linebackers aren't as big as he is. We have to get several people to him."

Washington is a different sort of runner than WVU's Rasheed Marshall. While the Mountaineers try to get their senior to the corner and into gaps with his speed, Temple often pounds Washington into the line. In fact, some of Temple's plays seem to consist solely of the offensive line surging forward with Washington leaning on their backs. If the defensive line can't stop the push, four and five yard gains usually result.

"It reminds me a little of some of the stuff we did with Woody Dantzler at Clemson a few years ago," Rodriguez recalled. "Their one-back offense is really two-back, and you have to play it like that. He's a threat to run it at any time."

The Mountaineer mentor also mentioned a couple of other factors that will come into play in this Saturday's contest, which begins at 1:00 p.m. and will not be televised.

"We have to have a certain level of intensity that we had at times last game," said Rodriguez, who is no stranger to that emotion. "We can't stop ourselves. At times, our execution hasn't been the best. I think Temple has a lot more confidence in their Big East games, too. They had opportunities to win the Pitt game and the Rutgers game.

And the other thing that makes you nervous is they had two weeks to prepare. Are you going to get the schemes you prepared for, or are you going to get something new? They ran some different schemes against us a couple years ago when they had some time to prepare – some odd fronts defensively. So we have to be ready for those too."

RIFLE REPORTS

Eddie Jackson and Miquelle Henderson will start at the X and Z (wideout) spots, with John Pennington and Charles Hales at they H and Y when the Mountaineers go to their four-wide sets. "Their opportunities will depend on the number of four wide sets being run," Rodriguez commented. "But they are both good pattern runners with good hands."

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On the injury front, defensive back Adam Jones will not practice today, but could see a few reps on Wednesday. If he is still limited by game time, he might not return kicks. Defensive back Antonio Lewis is very doubtful again with a sprained ankle, and running back Bryan Wright is questionable with a neck stinger.

Tight end Josh Bailey's surgery will hopefully occur soon, so that he has time to rehabilitate and come back in time for spring practice.

* * *

With Pac Man's status in doubt, Rodriguez is looking at other players to run back kicks. He is confident in both Vaughn Rivers and Anthony Mims – he called Mims "the most sure-handed return man we have."

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Rodriguez also believed that Dee McCann is finally rounding into the player he thought he would be.

"Conditioning," was Rodriguez' one-word response to explain McCann's slow progress to date. "He was out of shape when he came in, which is what took him so long to get to this point. He was hurt in camp, so he missed all those reps, which would have helped him get in shape too. Guys on the second team don't get all those game snaps, so sometimes its tougher for them to get in shape. We put him on special teams, and now he's on every one. That, and then taking every snap on Saturday caught up with him. He was cramping up, but it was good for him to see how much conditioning he still needs.

"He's gotten better every week, though. I thought he played pretty well. He got beat early, and battled back. I though he competed well and made three or four big plays. He got some confidence, and I think he earned some of our confidence as well."

* * *

Rodriguez put Kay Jay Harris back on the kickoff team after that squad encountered some problems against Syracuse, and that move paid good dividends.

Some of the problems in kickoff coverage we thought were speed problems, so that's why Kay Jay was out there. He did an outstanding job, and it made a difference. If you get two or three guys down there quickly, it can screw up the whole return."

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Rodriguez continued to be bothered by the lack of a pass rush, but this time his frustration was shifted a bit.

"I wasn't as unhappy as much with the defensive line on pass rush, but we still have not beaten the one on one blocks," Rodriguez said of his front three (and sometimes four). Some of our blitzes didn't get there, and coverage wise, we gave up inside leverage and gave up too many easy throws. (Late in the game) I think fatigue set in too, and we were down to our fifth or sixth corner."

* * *

Unlike high schools, Rodriguez said he doesn't hear much from parents about playing time issues.

"I'm sure they talk about it amongst themselves, and you might hear about it if you see them, but unfortunately I don't get to see the parents much," Rodriguez observed. "I see them a little on the road, but here at home they are usually outside the tunnel while I'm coming through the building. It's not nearly as much as what it might be in high school.

"Coaches are going to play the guys that give them the best chance to win the game," Rodriguez added. "As far as playing a guy because he likes him better, that's ridiculous. No coach I know would do that."


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