Different Approach

Each week, head football coach Rich Rodriguez talks about correcting mistakes from the previous week's game. In past seasons, those comments have, at times, carried the hint of exasperation, as the same mistakes were being repeated from game to game.

For instance, in 2004, Rodriguez spoke repeatedly about correcting the arm-folding, personal foul-gathering behavior of his squad. By the end of the year, you could almost predict what the Mountaineer mentor would say in response to questions about the items that needed attention.

This year, however, there's a different angle. While his young team is still making plenty of errors, Rodriguez remains more upbeat when talking about the fixes he must implement.

"Every game you have a different mistake, especially with first time players," Rodriguez said. "But they were good yesterday. They worked hard in practice and are excited about where they are."

The coach, who has displayed good patience with his still-growing squad, seems to understand that the mistakes being committed aren't ones of pride or arrogance, but simply errors that can be corrected with more coaching and practice repetitions. And, because of that, it makes bearing those mistakes much easier for him.

Rodriguez is also concerned about the eight consecutive games his team will play. WVU will hit the halfway point of that stretch Saturday against East Carolina.

"They are in the middle of an eight game stretch, and like a rookie in the NFL, they can go in and hit the wall," Rodriguez said of the barrier that often confronts players as they move up in competition. "We've been addressing that. We have to be careful that first time players don't hit that wall."


A pleased Rodriguez commented on the sellout crowd awaiting the Pirates.

"I heard the game was sold out yesterday. Our goal has always been to sell out every game. Look at programs like Nebraska that has sold out every year, and South Carolina, who sold their stadium out when they were 0-11. I have to thank the fans, because it gets our team charged up when they hear it's sold out. It puts an extra bounce in their step."

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Rodriguez was grilled about his relationship with Skip Holtz, with questions covering a wide variety of topics. A bemused Rodriguez noted that he has known Holtz since he was at Connecticut, and that he also knows Terry Holland, the athletic director at East Carolina. Other Pirate assistants that Rodriguez is familiar with include Rick Smith, who was an assistant with Rodriguez at Tulane, and Greg Hudson, who was the defensive coordinator at Minnesota before making the move to the same position at ECU.

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Although the Pirates are still struggling defensively against the run, they look to be a much better team than the one WVU trounced a season ago. Part of the difference is new schemes on both sides of the ball, although the new sets employed by Holtz might be easier for West Virginia to prepare for than those of a year ago.

"ECU is completely different defensively than what they were last year. This year it's a scheme we have seen before, but not from them," Rodriguez explained. "ECU does some of the things offensively that we do. They are a lot more in the shotgun and use some of the runs we do. Our defense could remember some of the things we ran in camp and work off that. We have two games worth of films, but I would not be shocked at all to see a different scheme from them this week. It seems like we see that a lot. Maryland did that against us – they came out with a different front than we had seen on film."

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Junior college wideout Aundrae Allison is one player who has caught Rodriguez' attention. In two games this year, the speedy receiver has 18 receptions for 321 yards and three touchdowns. That's a gaudy 17.8 yards per catch – many of which he has put up on his own after snaring short passes.

"He has a lot more quickness than our guys do on the perimeter," Rodriguez noted. "Against Wake, he made one or two guys miss and then took it to the house. Against him, you have to rally to the ball and be sound in your technique."

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With Jay Henry doubtful for the game, backups Marc Magro and Reed Williams will likely see the bulk of the action at middle linebacker. Henry has not send much improvement since Monday.

Rodriguez has confidence in Magro, who has "prepared himself the whole time he has been here".

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Rodriguez is also encouraged by the play of John Bradshaw, who made the first start of his career at Maryland.

"He's a young redshirt freshman – he was just 17 when he got here," said Rodriguez of his young guard. "He's very intelligent. You tell him something one time and he usually gets it. He played o.k. in what was a tough environment, and we expect him to get better and better. To be able to play both tackle and guard at this point in his career is impressive."

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Rodriguez again spoke of the competition factor at several positions, and noted that players don't tend to look back at what happened in past games, but rather at what the future holds.

"Our guys just look toward today's practice, getting through that, and what they have to do to get better," he observed. "They know if they slip another guy will take his spot. Like I've said before, I think competition elevates everybody, and the competition at running back is day to day."

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College students as a group don't tend to eat healthily, and Rodriguez noted that it's a concern for his charges as well.

"Most students don't eat breakfast, then they go to McDonald's or somewhere for lunch," Rodriguez lamented. "We eat at the training table at dinner, so I don't have to worry about that, but then I worry about [what they are eating] at night. "We try to help them with vitamins, but we have to make sure they eat right on their own. It's always a concern, and we address that every week. We might see a guy lose weight or lose energy, and sometimes it's because they aren't treating themselves in a professional manner. I worry about their sleep habits, too. As coaches we worry about everything."

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East Carolina's last opponent, Wake Forest, was long a stalwart of the odd stack defense, but WVU won't learn much about how ECU will attack that front from watching last week's game film. The Demon Deacons switched back to a four-man front prior to this season. Although Wake occasionally jumped into their old defense against the Pirates, it probably wasn't enough to provide much help to WVU's coaches as they game plan against the ECU offense.

WVU and Wake Forest used to routinely compare notes and exchange information when both were running the odd stack.

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While WVU has rotated quarterbacks and running backs to good effect, they haven't gotten as many defensive linemen as many snaps as they would like. The starters played three times as many snaps as the backups against Maryland – a ratio that Rodriguez would like to make more balanced.

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Pat McAfee's touchback kickoffs came at a critical time in WVU's win, and while Rodriguez noted that he had a breeze behind him for most of the boots, he also feels his freshman kicker is getting into a groove.

"We're used to seeing him kick it five yards deep into the end zone in practice. He has a good personality, and the guys on the team like him. He's happy where he is and what he is doing, he's fun, and he's team oriented. Even though he seems happy go lucky, he's serious about his craft and about getting better."

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Rodriguez also responded forcefully to a question about possibly scrapping the rollout kicks executed by Adam Bednarik. One of those kicks was partially blocked against the Terrapins.

The roll kicks worked out great except for the missed assignment when we got one blocked," Rodriguez noted. "It was just one guy that missed his assignment. The roll kick will still be a big part of our offense."

When it was observed that some people didn't like the newfangled punting ideas employed by WVU, Rodriguez observed that back in the 1940s, quarterbacks handled a number of kicking tasks as well.

"Back in the old days, the quarterbacks used to do all this stuff. Punt, kick, everything. We're really going back to the old school," he said with a laugh.

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