Tough Task

Coaches often Lou-Holtzisize their way through every team. But when West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel waxes about SEC champion Georgia, his voice hints at more than just recurrent acclaim.

The No. 8 Bulldogs (10-2) are faster than any team WVU has faced. They're bigger, stronger and more skilled throughout the lineup than the then-No. 3 Virginia Tech team that throttled No. 11 WVU's then-mistake prone, now-explosive offense. And UGA's well-coached.

If there are three more significant checkmarks for solid offense, Casteel has not unearthed them. His prototypical rise-to-ritches story is, like most coaches, now nearly a tiresome cliché'. What's not is his scheme and style and how it might be honed to slow arguably the most high-octane offense it has faced in his five years.

"It's tough," Casteel said. "They have so many weapons. Their running game is their strength and their passing game is based off their running game."

Nothing new there. But mix fifth-year senior quarterback D.J. Shockley's mobility, penchant for the deep throw and howitzer-like arm with a trio of tailbacks – all of varying abilities and sizes – with fleet afoot wideouts and one has the trappings of a blowout against a team that averaged 32-plus points per game with Shockley.

"You look around at most teams and see where you can attack them, a match-up you like here or there," WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "You don't find that with Georgia."

West Virginia won't tweak what has been successful for three months for one game It will instead stick to the tried and true: stop the run, negate the long pass, force extended drives. The Mountaineers must contain Thomas Brown, Danny Ware and Kregg Lumpkin, who have rushed for a combined 1,412 yards and six touchdowns.

"I don't know that we're going to do anything different to each back," Casteel said. "They all have a similar style in that they are all physical and they're well-coached in not turning the ball over. They have a great pad level and are really tough to get a shot on. It looks to me on film like they must be leading the country in 6-7-8 yard runs because every time you turn around it's second and three."

That's a down and distance from which West Virginia will find itself scrambling to recover, should it allow such first-down success. Much of that could come from NFL-bound tight end Leonard Pope. The 6-7 junior has caught 33 passes for 491 yards (14.9 per reception) and three scores. The Mountaineers have struggled against the multiple-talent position because of its ability to find creases in the odd stack defense.

WVU is best at forcing foes into second and longs and playing solid pass coverage to counteract big plays – no easy task when no starting UGA back averages less than 4.7 yards per carry.

"The other thing," Casteel said, "is their offensive gets on the right guys. They really do a great job up front. They're very, very big and well-coached. That is going to be a big challenge for our kids. We've obviously seen big people before but their tackles are 6-7, 6-8, 6-9 – our basketball team's not that big. Our guys are going to have to play with leverage and do the things we need to do to be successful. We have to go be a physical football team Monday night to have a chance."

That line size gives Georgia an automatic reach advantage, but could allow WVU to use its smaller, more compact size to sway the line play. The Mountaineers – now deeper than every up front under Rodriguez – give up a foot of height when all linemen are considered. They'll roll in six or seven players to stay fresh.

"Hopefully we can do what we need to do to control their running game and get after their quarterback a little bit," Casteel said. "It's a huge, huge challenge because they have talent throughout their lineup anywhere you look. They have NFL-type players, whether it's out on the edge with their wide receivers, or if it's up front, or even their tight ends. So we have a huge challenge to play well and keep us in the game."

Musket Blasts:

Casteel, on the bowl preparation: "I think everything is going smooth. Our kids have had a good bowl preparation to this point and it's carried down here to Atlanta. We went in full gear the last couple days after giving them a few days off during the holidays. I think our guys have done a good job and have hit the ground running once we got into Atlanta. We're really excited. It's almost like an opening game … they're so tired of batting on each other the last couple of weeks that they're excited about playing on Monday night."

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