Adequate Performance

West Virginia had a workmanlike performance on Saturday in the 27-14 win over Rutgers. The Mountaineers got off to quick start, jumping out to a 21-0 lead, but then slowed a bit, adding just two field goals in the second half on the rainy afternoon. Mirroring the play in the game, head coach Rich Rodriguez was neither too high nor too low in assessing his team's performance.

"I thought the guys played pretty hard, but I think in just about every area we can make improvements," he explained. "Defensively we didn't get off blocks or rush the passer as well as we can. We had a couple of offensive mistakes, too. But our guys were focused during the game and made adjustments at key times."

Left unsaid was the opinion that his team will have to improve on both sides of the ball if they are to hold on to sole possession of the conference lead, as Louisville comes to town next Saturday.

"That's a different animal we have coming in," said Rodriguez in reference to the Cardinals' explosive offensive attack. "They have guys who make big plays, and we have to be able to answer them."

RIFLE REPORTS

The injury report worsened considerably following WVU's return to Morgantown. Running back Jason Gwaltney has a sprained MCL in his knee and will be out a minimum of four weeks. Nose tackle Ernest Hunter has a high ankle sprain, and will be out 2-3 weeks.

"Jason has been a power back for us," Rodriguez lamented "He made some big runs and has done a good job blocking, and has gotten better every week. But when injuries happen someone else has to take that role over. With our other backs someone should be able to do it."

Among the candidates to take Gwaltney's snaps are Owen Schmitt, Pernell Williams and Jason Colson. Schmitt drew praise from Rodriguez for his play to date.

Also on the injury list are Anthony Mims (hamstring) and Vaughn Rivers (ankle). Mims started the game against Rutgers, but departed after the first two series when his leg tightened up. The injury is not a tear, and Mims will be day to day. Also in that status is Rivers, who again turned his ankle, this time on a second half kickoff return.

Defensive lineman Andrae Wright, who saw just 11 snaps in the game, should be available for more duty against the Cardinals.

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WVU will replace Hunter by committee. Pat Liebig, who played much of the Rutgers game in Hunter's place, will again get snaps. Craig Wilson, who has played nose tackle in the past, will back him up. Keilen Dykes and Andrae Wright will also be available for duty inside.

"We felt his absence," Rodriguez said of the game following Hunter's departure. "He had played well and held the point down – that's a key position for us on the defensive front."

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Just as before the Virginia Tech game, media members tried to corner Rodriguez into defining the importance of the upcoming contest. Rodriguez again refused to be baited.

"I don't think any one game defines the season," he said. "I don't like to put all the eggs in one basket. It is a big game because it's a Big East game and they are nationally ranked, but all the Big East games are big. If you can get a win it should help earn some respect, but it all doesn't start or end in the Louisville game.

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Rodriguez has gone through South Florida's win over the Cardinals once, and although he will be studying it more over the next day or so, he believes the key to the game were some early big plays on the part of the Bulls.

"USF got a couple of big plays in all three phases, and they got up on them early and played with confidence," he noted. "You see it all the time."

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Rodriguez also had words of praise for Steve Slaton and Josh Bailey.

"Steve still missed a few cuts but showed patience and burst through some tackles. He has that little extra burst that allows him to break off some big runs. Josh Bailey may have had the best game he's had in his career here. He played a lot, and he played well. His blocking in the running game was one of the reasons Slaton did well."


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