Degree of Difficulty

West Virginia handled the challenge of rainy conditions well at Rutgers, but will be facing a much more difficult task this weekend as it tries to cope with the powerful offense of Louisville.

"I thought we handled the conditions pretty well," head coach Rich Rodriguez said on Monday. "It was wet and rainy, but we had no fumbles and didn't drop ball on the ground. I thought the guys stayed composed. We gave up a couple of drives defensively where we didn't tackle well, but overall we are happy with the win. Rutgers has done well this year, and getting the win on their home field was good."

Rodriguez and his team now turn their attention to Louisville, in what figures to be the marquee matchup of the season for the Big East.

"It's a tremendous challenge," Rodriguez said. "We are playing one of the most talented teams in country. [Offensively] I think this is more of a test than Virginia Tech was. They were good offensively, but they get a lot of points on defense and special teams. Louisville scores in the 50s and 60s with their offense by itself. It's our biggest challenge offensively to date, without question."

What makes the Cardinals so difficult to defend, according to Rodriguez, is their multiple weapons. "Explosive," was his one-word summation of the UL attack.

"They have guys that can create big plays at every position. It all centers around the quarterback as to how explosive your offense can be, but they have a lot of skill around him, too. It all starts with those players. We have our hands full this weekend. They had the one bump in the road at South Florida, which played flawlessly in all three phases. To beat North Carolina, a solid ACC program like they did, is impressive. They are everything we thought they would be coming into the season."


Louisville isn't a one-dimensional team, however. Rodriguez is also impressed with the speed of the Cardinal defense and the play of sack monster Elvis Dumervil.

"All of their guys run well on defense," he explained. "They have done good a job getting athletes that run well. They turn them loose, blitz a lot and play man coverage to try to dictate the tempo, just like they do on offense."

"Dumervil is good not only because he causes sacks, but because of the quarterback pressures he's gotten," Rodriguez continued. "He's a big play guy. Virginia Tech and Miami have had a couple of players like him, and Dwight Freeney at Syracuse is another one we have seen that is similar. He's obviously very comparable to a Darryl Tapp of Virginia Tech – he's right in there with all of those players."

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Rodriguez again noted that he doesn't like to build up one game over another, but admitted that his team is aware of the extra attention being paid to this contest.

"As a coach you downplay the buildup and don't center on one game, but our guys know it's an important game," he said with a hint of resignation. "I think all the Big East games are huge, but the fact we are both ranked puts a little extra attention on it.

"I didn't even know about the ranking until a half hour ago," he continued. "It's not relevant to me, and shouldn't be to the players. We want to be ranked at the end of the season. It's only halfway through right now. A ranking doesn't make a first down or a tackle for you."

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Asked for a defensive strategy against a Louisville team that doesn't seem to lose shootouts, Rodriguez laughed ruefully.

"They haven't lost many games period," he said. "South Florida was able to get a couple of big plays, and then the defense got a couple of turnovers. You can't stop them completely; you have to get some turnovers and some big plays on special teams. When they get rolling it seems like they take you out of your game. When their offense gets in rhythm, it's hard to stop.

So far this year, West Virginia's defense has done a good job in preventing big plays by emphasizing zone defenses and favoring more defenders in pass coverage than rushing the quarterback, and that's a strategy most observers expect WVU to employ against the Cardinals.

"We have tackled well," Rodriguez said as he ticked off the reasons for WVU's stinginess against the big play. "With our different coverages, we have played a lot of zone and tried to keep everything in front, and then wrap it up, although we do take some chances at times. We emphasize rallying to the ball and tackling. It has given up some drives, but it has kept them from getting the big plays on us."

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