Marking Time

With a near-record 18 days between games, the real news is that other than the injury report, there isn't much news at all around the Mountaineer football team.

Other than the injury front, the past couple of weeks have been pretty much status quo for head coach Rich Rodriguez and the Mountaineers, who have been balancing between keeping the momentum from the Louisville game alive and not falling into a practice rut while preparing for UConn. During that time, West Virginia has conducted some heavy hitting work, gotten in a couple of scrimmage sessions for its younger players, and tried to keep things as routine as possible, even though the schedule switch has uprooted the normal procedures.

"This stretch is little different," Rodriguez said on Monday morning. "We have this Wednesday-Wednesday-Thursday schedule this month. We as coaches have been through a stretch like this before, but many of our younger players have not. They have to deal with classes and different schedules during this month. We've talked with the players about how to deal with that and how to respond. I think they will be o.k."

RIFLE REPORTS

With the Mountaineers now controlling their own destiny in the BCS race, Rodriguez has already been busy working to keep his team grounded.

"We talked about that in our first team meeting after the Louisville game," Rodriguez said. "We told them people will be patting them on back. I think they still know how hard they have to work and that we'll still struggle at times, because we're not a dominating team by any means. Our games will go down to the last quarter, just like most of them have. Our guys know that, and they know we have four big ballgames left. We have to go out there and battle all the time."

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Rodriguez reiterated that his young players might be easier to keep focused on the immediate than the long term.

"Young guys are just trying to get themselves through the day," he analyzed. "Sometimes you worry about distractions more with the seniors. "They say, ‘This is my last shot at individual title', and they start to press and don't relax and play ball. It might sound funny, but it might be easier to keep the young guys focused on the immediate goals."

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Shockingly, a question was asked form a media member that thinks the Big East is taking some unfair hits from the scribblers and babblers across the country. Rodriguez, eager to talk with a like-minded soul, provided more input.

"We have taken the hit unfairly at times from media outlets. They say the Big East is weak without looking at facts, figures or individual programs. May it will be like that until we win bowl games or the majority of our out of conference games. But just look at what Louisville did to North Carolina and Oregon State. I thought we had a good win at Maryland, too. I just think it's fashionable to bash the Big East right now, but I think it can hold its own.

"You see it throughout college football, that there's not a lot of difference between 1 and 65," he continued. " Obviously the top three or four teams are a notch above everyone else, but it's very competitive, and often comes down to the last quarter no matter what conference you are in."

* * *

The one negative bit of news came on the injury front, where Rodriguez noted that the time off didn't help as much as hoped. Tight end Josh Bailey will likely miss the game with an ankle sprain, and defensive tackle Andrae Wright is also very questionable with the same injury. Fellow linemate Ernest Hunter should see some snaps, but won't be 100% as hoped. Quarterback Adam Bednarik is still not close to that level of readiness either. His progress over the next two days will determine how much, if any he will play.


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