West Virginia is now in the middle of another extended break, with a full 14 days between the end of the UC contest and the Backyard Brawl with Pitt. As usual at this time of year, bumps and bruises tend to pile up, so the extra week of rest is welcome.
"Now we have time to heal up a little bit," the fifth-year head coach said of the break. "We're excited about where we are in standings and playing Pitt and home."
The extra week should ensure that center Dan Mozes, injured in the UC game, will be able to play against the Panthers. Mozes will be on limited practice duty for the next couple of days, but is expected to be available for duty on Thanksgiving night.
Tight end is the position of concern for that contest, as Adam Serena is likely out after sustaining an injury in the UC contest. Mike Villagrana is day to day with a foot sprain, which further shortens the depth chart there. In a bit of good news, senior Josh Bailey has a chance to play in what would be the final home game of his career.
In other injury news, Jason Gwaltney is still "day to day" according to an unusually reticent Rodriguez.
* * *
Rodriguez does not have any memories of the Pitt game that stand out.
"I do remember that we were having success, and Pitt was too with Dan Marino at quarterback. I remember that the games were very intense, and that they were usually early in the season. Even so, it was often a critical one, but you expect that for a rivalry game."
* * *
West Virginia will have a light workout on Monday, then put on the pads for heavy drills on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The team will have Friday off, and then begin game week preparations for the Panthers on Saturday.
* * *
The one constant with the 2005 Mountaineers has been their maturity, according to Rodriguez. He admits he didn't expect his young team to be so well-prepared to handle all of the different situations it has encountered this year.
"The team has been pleasant surprise from a maturity standpoint," he said. "With an experienced team you know how they will handle being on the road or getting behind; with an inexperienced team you don't. These guys have played pretty focused all year. I think they like playing the game and like being around each other."
* * *
Rodriguez tries to downplay WVU's view of the Backyard Brawl so that his team doesn't put more emphasis on this game than any other. Still, as his comments about the intensity of the game during his playing days show, there's something a little extra on the line with the Mountaineers and Panthers butt heads.
"No matter when we play Pitt our guys know it's a rivalry," he said. "We try to take the approach that every game counts as one. I don't try to put too much emphasis on one game, because I think that's dangerous. There will be a lot of talk around campus and around our players about the game this week, but for us it's our last home game for our seniors. That should help keep our players focused, too."