Back To The Basics

Rich Rodriguez isn't worried about having his defense make the switch from facing an unconventional offense to one with a more standard approach.

"I actually think it's easier for our defense to go back to facing a traditional offense," WVU's fifth-year head coach said. "I saw Maryland say the same thing before the Clemson game after playing Navy. Now, I'm not saying it will be easier to play them. I think they have a lot better players than the first two teams we've played. It's going to be a physical game with a lot of emotion. "

Rodriguez knows, and quickly points out, that beating Maryland will come down to a question of execution more than anything else.

"We've had problems with their schemes in the past, and they've executed well," he said in detailing the reasons he has just one win against the Terps. We've missed tackles, which was very disappointing. They've gotten big plays on us in every game but last year's game. I think we know each other very well, because we have gone against each other with the same staffs for the last four years. I don't think there will be a lot of surprises in terms of schemes in this game."


WVU will practice on its grass field all week to prepare for its first contest on real turf. WVU's practice area, like Byrd Stadium, features a flat surface. It will be the second time in three weeks that the Mountaineers have played on a field without a crown.

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Rodriguez again joked about putting a gag order on the media, when it was brought up that the Mountaineers have the number one total defense in the nation.

"Don't tell them," he said with a smile. "But, we won't tell them either. I don't mind them being proud and trying to uphold the #1 ranking. If our defense is dominant like that, we'll win a lot of games. But the last game, being a 1-AA team you can't put a whole lot into that, even though it was a difficult offense. It's way to early in the season."

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Rodriguez noted that he "saw some progress, but not enough," against Wofford.

"The offense moved the ball better, but it was hard to judge because of the opponent and the style they were playing. We did a few different things offensively and defensively. But we got out of it injury free, and with a win, and our guys feel good."

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At the start of the season, Rodriguez noted that Steve Slaton and Jason Gwaltney weren't ready to run the entire offense. In just a couple of weeks, however, that appears to have changed.

"Right now I have no reservations about playing all four tailbacks," he said of the freshman pair as well as Jason Colson and Pernell Williams. Obviously both quarterbacks will play, and the young receivers will play. I don't know if a good back has to get 25 carries. Some guys do, but not all. If a guy has a hot hand we'll keep giving it to him. Because they bring something different, we have a lot of flexibility with them. And we really have five tailbacks, with Owen Schmitt. He's going to get the ball too.

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OBSERVATION OF THE WEEK: "To beat the Marylands, we have to have other guys touch the ball than the quarterback and running back." – Rich Rodriguez

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Rodriguez had the following observations on three of Maryland's featured players:

  • Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson – "He has a big game against everyone. I'm not sure that he's not better than E.J. Henderson. It seems like he makes every tackle from sideline to sideline. He's a great, great player. Obviously you are going to account for him, but you have to work hard to block him. All of our guys up front, the running backs and the fullbacks are aware of how he takes on blocks and makes tackles. He's the key to their defense."

  • Quarterback Sam Hollenbach – "He is making good decisions, running the offense and taking care of the ball. He's distributing the ball to the right guys and moving it up and down the field. That's what anyone looks for in a quarterback."

  • Tight End Vernon Davis – "he's bigger and stronger than the defensive backs and faster than the linebackers. He's a mismatch, and that's what you try to do on offense – create mismatches. We won't be able to cover him with one guy. We'll have to mix it up and put more than one person on him."

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    Maryland is typically one of the nastier road venues the Mountaineers play in, with abuse typically raining down from the stands. Rodriguez hopes that his team's experience at Syracuse will help it deal with the toxic environment.

    "It was loud at Syracuse, we weren't playing well, we had some turnovers, so I think we grew up some from that. I don't think our guys will be shocked by the environment at Maryland. But, I'll be able to answer it better after the game."

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    When Rodriguez gives out his injury reports, it must be confined to players he expects to be part of the game plan. Rayshawn Bolden, who missed the first two games with an injured foot, is again questionable for Maryland. Rodriguez didn't specifically mention him until he was asked point blank about his chances of seeing action.

    "Rayshawn will play when he's healthy," Rodriguez answered curtly. "It's up to him, not to me."

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    Rodriguez admitted that the twin punt returner scheme functioned at less than 100% efficiency against Wofford.

    "The main reason for two punt returners is protection," he explained. "We have two back, one catches it and the other can protect against the bullets coming downfield. We also have a short guy up to catch a short kick. We stagger them, but then the up guy didn't make the catch last week. Hopefully we got that corrected."

    WVU also puts two defenders on one of the bullets at times to try to keep the two outside cover men from getting down the field at the same time.

    * * *

    Sometimes you just can't get things through people's heads. Despite a clear explanation of his kickoff philosophy ("We want every kickoff to go through the goal posts"), some people continue to insist that his favorite stratagem is a pooch kick.

    "Like everyone else, not every one is going to go out," said Rodriguez of Pat McAfee's kickoffs. "So we try to pin them in the corner, get off blocks and make the tackle. It's the same thing with punts. If you see a punt down the middle it's a mistake. We want to pin them over on the numbers and get them on the ground."

    * * *

    Rodriguez on rooting for Big East teams in out of conference games: "I know we're supposed to pull together, but as a true blue and gold Mountaineer, it's hard for me to root for some of our traditional rivals."

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