Deep Into It

Georgia's biggest scoring threat is West Virginia's strongest defensive aspect. Something has to give, and the Mountaineers worked Monday to ensure it wasn't them.

The No. 8 Bulldogs (10-2) have thrived on big plays often produced by scrambling quarterback D.J. Shockley. But it's not in the traditional running sense – a la Pat White – that those long gains are achieved. Instead, Shockley scrambles to throw, making the slinging right-hander even more dangerous.

"That's really tough to defend," WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "If a guy just looks to run and take off, you can rally and make the tackle. What (Shockley) has done is scramble and look for the big throw. That gives them some big plays. And he is athletic."

And that skill, coupled with his deep ball finesse, makes Shockley even more dangerous than Virginia Tech's Marcus Vick, who normally looked to throw first, then simply took off for as much ground yardage as possible. Shockley is very aware of the line of scrimmage when he is moving, and will pull up short or slow to entice defenders to come off a potential passing target.

"That's one thing we have to be aware of," Rodriguez said. "We have done scrambling drills about not getting off a man and giving them a cheap touchdown."

No. 11 West Virginia (10-1) has been very good about deep man coverage and not peeling off wideouts. Only Pitt's Greg Lee truly burned the Mountaineer secondary this year, and quick adjustments snuffed that offensive game plan. But UGA, with more athletes, is expected to try some called long passes, and not just throw the deep ball when WVU shuts down other opportunities.

So the Mountaineers worked on stopping deep chances, going inside the Caperton Indoor Facility to get a feel for the lights inside and what the pace of play will be like with a couple receivers going deep and Georgia taking shots for big plays and scores.

"I would anticipate them throwing a lot," Rodriguez said. "Georgia has been very good at that. If you don't work on that a lot, your defensive backs don't get to see that. And Shockley can throw it, he can throw the deep ball."

That's a major problem for WVU, which has the ability to score quickly against foes with lesser athletic ability, but could stall against Georgia's equal speed. The Mountaineers have allowed just 16.3 points per game and hope to force another low-scoring contest. UGA has allowed 14.6 points per game and completely shut down explosive LSU in a 34-14 win in the SEC title game at the Georgia Dome.

"Their defense was the most dominating aspect of that game," Rodriguez said of Georgia. "But they had some nice drives and their special teams were really good. It is going to be hard to score on them. So if there is a lot of scoring, it will probably be on their end. That's not going to be fun.

"But if you're in a BCS bowl, you should be considered one of the top 12 to 15 teams in the country. If you play anybody that highly thought of it should be a pretty good ball game. It's our job to make it such. There is no doubt we are the underdog, and we should be. We are not going down there to play within seven points, though. We go to win."

West Virginia also worked both sides of the ball on crowd noise, simulating the expected Georgia advantage with loud music. It went 15-20 minutes under such duress, and will continue that strategy throughout the week. WVU will also practice outside when the weather expectedly breaks (Morgantown's highs are predicted to be in the high 30s and low 40s on Thursday and Friday, up roughly 10 degrees from the Monday and Tuesday forecasts).


Receiver and kick returner Vaughn Rivers returned to practice Monday. Fellow slot wideouts Jason Colson (knee sprain suffered versus Pitt) and Jeremy Bruce (slipped on ice) will not be back until the team reassembles in Dec. 26 in Atlanta.

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Rodriguez noted that it would essentially be a home game for Georgia, playing its third consecutive game in Atlanta and its second straight in the Georgia Dome.

"There will be as many Mountaineers as the number of tickets they allow us to have," Rodriguez said. "There will still be a decided advantage. You get 15,000 of them and 15,000 of us, well, that still leaves 40,000 for the Atlanta area. Guess who is there? Most of them are Bulldog fans. That's why there will be a noise issue. That makes it fun. Everybody wants to play in front of a packed stadium."

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He said that though youthful WVU was playing well at the end of the year, that level could drop off because of the break in play.

"That has dissipated since the time off," Rodriguez said. "But I hope our freshmen, their best play, is ahead of them in their third and fourth years. That's what you expect. But there are sometimes I think they did not panic because they did not know any better. I hope they keep that wide-eyed look."

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