WVU center Jeremy Hines vs. Wofford nose tackle Katon Bethay
The highlight of the game, in our opinion. Hines, along with his running mates on the offensive line, will be out to correct the mistakes they made in the opener against Syracuse. That they have the talent and ability is without question, but they are not going to simply roll over the Wofford defensive front.
Although undersized, the Terriers have some bite (sorry about that) in the trenches. They are lead by Bethay, who will line up inches from Hines and collide with him on a regular basis. Bethay is a Division 1AA All America candidate who has the toughness of an Abrams battle tank. He played with torn ACLs in both knees earlier in his career, and excels at defeating blocks and getting into the backfield. He doesn't just stand his ground and attempt to tie up blockers – he attacks them and often gets by to make tackles for losses. His 20 such stops a year ago were the best on the team.
Hines, of course, is used to facing good players. He did so last week against the Orange. This challenge, however, will be a little different. Playing against someone right on top of you play after play can be difficult, as many WVU opponents discover when facing the Mountaineers' three man defensive front. Hines must not get frustrated and let the presence of a tenacious defender that hits him on every snap get under his skin or fracture his concentration.
WVU 3-3-5 stack vs. Wofford wingbone
The possibilities in this matchup are endless, and should provide lots of things to watch as the game unfolds. How will WVU deploy its edge defenders to stop the option pitch/keep on the perimeter? (That assumes, of course, that the mike linebacker is kept clean to stop the fullback.) Will Wofford's reverses, cutbacks and odd angles of attack in the running game slow down or confuse the normally aggressive Mountaineer spurs/ bandits and outside linebackers?
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|Sat 9/10/05 6:00 pm|
|Series: First Meeting|
|BCS: WVU-na: WC-na|
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If there's one thing not to look for in this game, it's a lot of blitzing on the part of the Mountaineer front six. Sure, there will be occasional run blitzes, and Erick Wicks and Mike Lorello will probably be closer to the line of scrimmage than Dick Cheney is to Halliburton, but the key to stopping the Terrier running game is in discipline and execution, not wanton pressure.
WVU cornerback Antonio Lewis vs. WVU cornerback Dee McCann
We promised to be a bit more unconventional in our matchups this year, so we don't bore you with the same old one on one battles each week. But what's this? Mountaineers against each other?
We don't mean to imply there's any bad blood between the pair. As Rodriguez noted this week, he's impressed with the camaraderie and closeness of the members of this team. However, the battle for playing time at short corner is an interesting one, and bears more scrutiny.
Following a fall camp in which Lewis caught McCann, Rodriguez anointed them co-starters against Syracuse. The game played out exactly that way, as the pair alternated possessions for most of the contest. Both played well, and both certainly deserve time on the field. So while most others are watching and analyzing the quarterback rotation, put some of your attention on numbers six and 15. Which one plays the run more effectively? How do they look in pass coverage? I promise it will be just as much fun as evaluating the running of Adam Bednarik or the tosses of Pat White.
THINGS TO WATCH
If you are a fan of tactics, you should enjoy watching the parabolas, arcs and chords run by Wofford's halfbacks on each play. While the fullback is typically utilized on a straight dive or another similar straight line running play, the halfbacks, who are liable to line up anywhere in the backfield (even stretching out to wingback and slot positions) are likely to get involved in the play from some very unconventional angles. The halfbacks will fake, reverse field, loop around behind the quarterback –anything to get them in motion and coming at the defense form unexpected spots on the field.
Viewed from about, it looks something like World War II fighter planes dogfighting. If the Wofford backs left contrails, it would make a very pretty pattern on the field.
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The dynamic between the two head coaches, and its effect on the game, should also provide an interesting sidelight.
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That doesn't mean, however, that Rodriguez will be going out looking to run up the score if the opportunity arises. WVU's coach spent a good portion of his Tuesday press conference speaking of the respect he has for Ayers, and that goodwill isn't likely to disappear on Saturday.
On the other hand, WVU is fighting for respect and votes in the polls, and eventually in the BCS rankings. There's no doubt that a 41-7 win carries a lot more weight than a 24-7 final. That spot can't be a fun one for the head coaches.
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It seems as if most of our "watch fors" are focused on the Wofford offense, but it's with good reason. Just like WVU's defense, Wofford employs a scheme that not many other teams use, so naturally there's a lot of attention on it prior to the game.
This item has to do with the Terriers blocking schemes. Although Wofford's offensive linemen aren't overly small, they are a bit less bulky than many of the massive linemen WVU's defensive front will face in 2005. Because of that, and also due to the type of running game they employ, Wofford uses a number of cut blocks in its offense – a tactic that most defensive linemen despise.
As any team that faces the NFL's Denver Broncos knows, cut blocking can be very effective. Going low to block an opponent can put him off balance and in a reaction mode – not a good thing for defenders used to forcing the action and making plays. It also puts defenders at greater risk for leg injuries.
It's important to note that in no way is Wofford being accused of any illegal or unethical tactics. They are simply employing a style of play that WVU is unfamiliar with, and may have problems adjusting to. So as you watch the game, keep an eye on how many times the Terriers go low to make blocks, and how the Mountaineer defensive front reacts to it.