Speed Plus Effort Equals WVU Worry

Rich Rodriguez' first concern with Florida State is obviously its team speed, but the Mountaineer mentor is also worrying about another facet of the Seminole program.

"When you get great athletes that can run, that's one thing. But to get them to play as hard as they do, it's something else," Rodriguez analyzed. "You'd think that everyone plays hard, but that's not always the case. Florida State plays as hard as you can possibly play. Combine that with their coaches, who are mixing things up more than they have in the past, and we've had to prepare for a lot of different things."

Rodriguez was alluding to the fact that the Seminoles are now doing more scheme-wise with their defense. In the past, FSU lined up in base schemes and won games on the basis of athleticism. Recently, however, they have implemented more variety in their defensive schemes, which has resulted in even more problems for opponents.

In looking for a common denominator in Florida State's losses, Rodriguez found only one small chink in the Seminoles' armor.

"The other team was able to get a couple of big plays [in their losses]," Rodriguez observed. "Maryland had three huge plays. Florida had big plays, including one off a broken play, and Miami the same thing. No one has had eight or 10 or 12 play drives against them."

The extended drive, of course, is West Virginia's strong suit. Fueled by the Mountaineer ground game, WVU's best offensive success has come on grinding drives. However, that force will be met by Florida State's almost immovable object – a rushing defense ranked first in the nation.

Despite that challenge, Rodriguez believes that the key to beating the Seminoles is to do what other teams have been unable to do – possess the ball and sustain drives.

"That's something that we will have to do," Rodriguez said. "We have to try to hit a couple of big plays, but you can't depend on them. We have to get some drives, even though no one has been able to do that yet."


Rodriguez and his staff are still awaiting final grades from the first semester, which will determine player availability for the bowl game.

"Grades will not be posted until the 28th, but we are getting some preliminary reports," Rodriguez related. "Hopefully by tomorrow we will know where some of the guys stand. Right now, I don't anticipate any negative standings."

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If his team continues to practice and execute well, Rodriguez plans to keep practices short.

"If we cut five or ten minutes off practice, mentally it can be a big deal. Sometimes they accuse me of holding the clock," he said with a laugh. Really, they players determine the length. We might schedule an 18 period practice, and if it's crisp, it ends up being shorter. If not, it might run longer."

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The execution theme runs through much of Rodriguez' pregame thoughts.

"We've looked at enough of their film to know what they are going to do, and they know what we will do. It comes down to a matter of execution. I think the first game and the last game, if it's a bowl game, usually comes down to this."

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Rodriguez has also been talking to his team about not holding the Seminoles in awe.

"We tell our players that they are same age as you are. They played Maryland, and we played Maryland. They played Miami, and we played Miami. We can complete with them if we play hard, smart and physical. I think they look forward to that challenge. I will be really disappointed if the guys don't compete like crazy and try to prove themselves on the field."

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