Sat 10/15/05 3:30 p.m.
Milan Puskar Stadium
Poll Rank: 26
RU 27-14 W
Rtn Lettermen: 41
Rtn Starters: 17
Poll Rank: 19
UNC 69-14 W
Rtn Lettermen: 45
Rtn Starters: 15
Last Meeting: 1993
Want to make the safest bet possible on the game? No, it's not taking the "over". The almost lead pipe cinch in this game is that Louisville will get the ball first.
West Virginia, like most teams, tends to defer their choice to the second half when it wins the toss. That's sound strategy, as offenses might not be in top gear at the game's outset. It can take a little while for them to get into rhythm, and as a result most coaches choose to put their defenses on the field first.
Not Louisville, however. The Cardinals take the ball when they win the toss, and have proved that conventional thinking doesn't apply to their attack. In the most recent 26 games in which UL has received the opening kickoff, they have scored 13 times. With that sort of performance, I'd buck the trends too.
A TREND TO CONTINUE
WVU hasn't allowed a first quarter score to its last three Big East opponents. If the Mountaineers could somehow extend that string against Louisville, it would go a long way toward getting the Mountaineers off to the good start they sorely need against the Cards. Of course, UL scores so quickly that a blanking in one quarter might not mean as much as it does against some other teams.
RUSH TO JUDGMENT
Louisville is allowing fewer rushing yards per game than West Virginia, but that stat bears a bit more scrutiny. While the Cardinals are allowing just 92.6 yards per game on the ground, that figure is more than a little influenced by UL's tremendous pass rush.
|WVU 5-1, 2-0
UL 4-1, 0-1
|Sat 10/15/05 3:30 p.m|
|Series: 5-1 WVU|
|BCS: WVU-25 UL-19|
|Line: WVU +7|
|Stats & Trends|
As we have seen, however, not many of those lost yards occurred on actual running plays -- the majority of the lost yardage came on sacks. In other words, on passing plays. It's an easy matter to count those yards while not counting sacks. Take the 250 total in lost yardage, subtract the 183 of sacks, and you get the total of 67 yards lost on actual runs. Take that away from the 713 yards gained, and UL is giving up 129.2 yards per game on the ground. That's still not bad, but certainly not top twenty level.
Does that mean WVU can run the ball against UL? We shall see. The Mountaineers probably need at least 175-200 yards on the ground in order to upend the visitors.
While the starting lineup on the Mountaineer defense has seen few changes this year, the offense has had a number of different groupings on the field to start the game.
Defensively, West Virginia has had the same player start at eight of the 11 positions for every game thus far. Only Marc Magro (for an injured Jay Henry) , Larry Williams (for a banged up Anthony Mims) and Antonio Lewis (one time in front of Dee McCann) have broken into the starting grid. (Unfortunately, that number will increase this week as Ernest Hunter will miss the game with a high ankle sprain.) The stability on defense has certainly contributed to WVU's success on that side of the ball, and it remains to be seen how WVU will respond to the loss of its anchor in the middle of the defensive line.
|UL Message Board|
|UL Official Site|
‘Formation starters' – those who were on the field for the first play but would be considered backups, also include Jeremy Bruce and Mike Villagrana. With fifteen different offensive positions represented in the starting lineup this year (five linemen, four wide receivers, two tight ends, two superbacks, one fullback and one quarterback), there's obviously more chances for starting assignments.
Even taking that into account, however, WVU's offense has been going through a season of change. Including Bailey, only five players have started every game at the same position through the first six contests (Garin Justice, Jeremy Sheffey, Travis Garrett and Adam Bednarik). A total of 20 different players have gotten at least one starting call on offense this year.
This is the last regular season game in which the Mountaineers will see the sun. The final four games of the season will be played under the lights.
After getting his collegiate start off with a bang at Syracuse (six receptions), Darius Reynaud has been missing in action recently. In WVU's last two games, the speedy sophomore has touched the ball just five times.
While it's true that some teams or defensive schemes might conspire to keep certain types of plays being run, it's the job of the offensive staff to figure out a way to utilize its best weapons, and Reynaud certainly qualifies in that regard. He needs to touch the ball 10 times per game, whether on passes, kick returns or reverses. Anything less than that is a waste.