The Richardson File

Observations, quotes and notes of interest as West Virginia prepares for its second consecutive trip to Rutgers.

How many years have we heard people say "This is the year of Rutgers." By "this is the year," obviously they mean the Scarlet Knights become bowl eligible. I don't think that many people are expecting Greg Schiano's team to compete with USC, Ohio State, and the other national powers right now, but there's no question that they are a vastly improved football team over the past few years. Their improvement is not lost on the Mountaineer players.

"Earlier in my career it wasn't tough to play there, but lately their program has gained some success and started to rise," said senior safety Jahmile Addae. "Last year we barely escaped with a win. We know how tough they are. But if there's any week where we're up for it, I think that it's this week."

If you need more proof of the Scarlet Knights' improvement, look no further than last week's win over Pitt. The old Rutgers would have blown that game. Despite their best efforts, they would have found a way to choke at the end. It didn't happen though. It happened in their season opener against Illinois, but that was over a month ago. The Scarlet Knights are improving each week, and as they enter Big East play they can be dangerous for a team like the Mountaineers, who will play the Knights between their two biggest games of the season.

"Their crowd gets up for the game and gets it going pretty loud up there. They're making the right steps. They're playing really good, and I watched them play against Pitt," said Kevin "Boo" McLee.

Despite the fact that they are still Rutgers, you can bet that the Mountaineer coaches and players won't be taking Saturday's game lightly at all.

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The Scarlet Knights have a number of playmakers on offense. Senior receiver Tres Moses is a dangerous deep threat, as the Mountaineers found out last season, and tight end Clark Harris is a legitimate Mackey Award Candidate. Running back Brian Leonard makes a highlight reel play just about every week, and quarterback Ryan Hart has improved more than any other Knight since last season.

As good as those players are, the strength of this team might be their defensive line. The Scarlet Knights finished first in the Big East last season with 31 sacks, and are tied for second this year with 17 through four games.

"They're really good. I think coach Trickett told me that they were all juniors and seniors. They're starting to have a lot of success with their front four," said junior center Dan Mozes.

"I've watched them on film, and they're very athletic up front," added quarterback Pat White. "Our scout team defense always gives us a real good look, though."

Hopefully the scout team has put in some extra time this week to prepare Mozes, White, and the rest of the Mountaineers for the talented Rutgers defensive line.

* * *

Speaking of White, the redshirt freshman signal caller says he is feeling more and more comfortable every week when it comes to running the offense.

"I'm still young, I still have a lot of work to do, but I'm feeling a lot more comfortable every game," he says. "Knowing where our guys are going to be, I'm getting a little bit better at reading the defenses every week."

Given that starter Adam Bednarik has been shaken up in each of the past three games, White's improved confidence is key for the offense to keep clicking when he enters the game. That confidence was on display with his 46-yard touchdown pass to Dorrell Jalloh last week. White threw the ball past a pair of Hokie defenders, and Jalloh did the rest.

"When I released it, I saw them breaking on it. I was hoping ‘Jello' would catch it, and then he took it to the house," he said with a grin.

* * *

Despite the loss to Virginia Tech, the team is still very confident heading into the conference portion of the schedule.

"The only thing we can't do is get an undefeated season now," said Mozes. "Our focus now is on the Big East. The Big East Championship runs through Morgantown."

White agreed that the focus, and confidence of the entire team is very healthy after five games.

"We're just confident as a team, period, no matter where we're playing or who we're playing. We took one on the chin, but we're going to bounce back," he assured.

Hopefully for the Mountaineers, that starts on Saturday in New Jersey.


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