Off The Field

WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez continues to be pleased with his team's ability to get off the field on third and fourth down.

The Mountaineers have yielded just eight first downs on 42 third-down tries by opponents – a stingy 19% success rate. WVU's three victims have also converted just one fourth down try in four chances.

"I thought we made a couple big third down and fourth down stops," Rodriguez said of the Maryland game, in a bit of an understatement. "We made plays in all three phases when we had to."

Exhibiting true coaching caution, however, Rodriguez noted that his team didn't play close to its potential.

"It was a nice win in a tough environment in a place we hadn't played very well," he allowed, "but we didn't play our ‘A' game, especially in first half. We can play a lot better, and we know we can improve. We made a couple of big plays offensively and we could run the ball in the fourth quarter when we had to run it. In the second half, our offense executed really well."


Rodriguez noted that defenses are becoming more sophisticated against the spread offense.

"I don't know if people are recruiting differently, because everyone wants big fast guys," he said. "What we do see is differences in how they defend it. Now people are being very creative defensively on how they counter the reads out of the offense. For example, teams might still squeeze the end in and loop the linebacker out. They are doing different things with who is defending each gap. It's up to us to see those changes and plan against them."

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Rodriguez continues to be complimentary of his team's maturity level.

"I think we played with confidence in the first game and the last game," he noted. "We are still young, because we got a lead, and some inexperience showed in that we celebrated a little too early, but we learned a lesson. I've said all along there are going to be bumps in the road and adversity, but these guys have worked extremely hard, and they are unique in that they don't care who the star is. They just like to play football.

"In the spring, I didn't even have to ask them if they were coming in for the summer. We had every scholarship player here both sessions of summer school, and all but one freshman. They all wanted to be here and be together. Even though we are young, it was one of the best summers we have ever had."

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With the Hokies of Virginia Tech looming in two weeks, Rodriguez is taking pains to assure his team doesn't treat East Carolina lightly. He will address his team regularly this week on that topic, and believes that he has enough veterans to help him get the message across about keeping the focus on the Pirates.

"ECU will be well coached and play hard," he reiterated. "I've known Skip [Holtz] for a while, and we expect that out of him and his teams."

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Terming him a "serious player", Rodriguez noted that freshman Jason Gwaltney continues to improve due to his demeanor.

"He takes to heart all the stuff we coach him on. He is very committed to the game, and when you are that committed, you are going to get better."

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Adam Bednarik's neck injury should be sufficiently healed to allow him to return to practice on Tuesday. If he is healthy, he will start. Linebacker Jay Henry, who sprained a knee during his tremendous performance against Maryland, was termed "50-50" by the coach in reference to his chances of playing on Saturday.

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