Speed Battles

Georgia's supposedly superior team speed isn't something new for West Virginia, says offensive coordinator Calvin Magee.

The No. 11 Mountaineers (10-1) see it everyday in their own drills.

"(I compare it) maybe to our defense at practice every day," Magee said. "We've got a lot of team speed too. Those guys (Georgia) are very fast. You watch tape on them and you start seeing as time goes where they may not have speed here or weaknesses there, but they seemed to get faster. Their speed is unbelievable and they play hard. We're going to have to try and match that with some speed ourselves."

WVU will try to match that with quarterback Past White and running back Steve Slaton. The duo will need among their best efforts to begin to counteract Georgia's quickness.

"They have done a tremendous job," Magee said of the pair, which have rushed for a combined 1,799 yards. "They're great kids. They have brought big-play ability. They are big play guys and they'll have to make big plays on Monday."

The two are so competitive, Magee said, that they have a daily race to see who gets up first from stretching. It's something of which Magee, head coach Rich Rodriguez and strength coach Mike Barwis keep track.

The staff knew early on with White that they had a special talent whose ability shined from his initial snap.

"We would scrimmage the freshmen quite a bit and he would always take the team down and score," Magee said. "Everybody said 'he can't throw and his mechanics were off' but every time he got under center he took the team down to score and they're something to be said about that. We knew he could make some plays but we didn't know how he'd react against opponents. But every time he played this year, he just got better and better.

"With Steve, we kind of knew when we signed him that this kid could be something really special. As most freshmen coming in, they have a lot to learn and we're not calling their number. Every week, I just kept telling him to be patient and he kept saying 'Yeah, right.' But after about three weeks, I told him to just be patient and keep learning the offense. Then against Virginia Tech we decided it was his time, and he's just done the rest."

The No. 7 Bulldogs (10-2) will obviously key on that area of WVU's attack. If that happens, Magee said West Virginia will be prepared with necessary adjustments.

"We are going to do whatever we have to do," he said. "We have to add some little things because they are awful good at stopping the run. There will be some adjustments we will make."

One of those in to increasingly rely on fullback Owen Schmitt, who first splashed onto the scene in a key road win at Maryland, then again in the triple-ovtertime win over Louisville.

"Owen brings an old-school mentality to the game," Magee said. "He's one of those kids who never thinks he's doing good. He's played well for us this year and he still thinks he's screwing up all the time.

"Owen's brought a mentality - a toughness, a physical-ness - to us. He's one of those kids who just believed he can play on this level. We took him in and knew right away that this kids was going to be special. But what keeps him going is that he never thinks he's doing good and he always wants to do better and better. He's going to have to play big for us."

And if the Mountaineers are forced to throw? It begs the question: Can they, and how much is too much in the passing game. Thirty times?

"How many? If we're forced to throw, then we'll do whatever we need to do. If they force us to throw it, then I'll guess you'll see us throw it. They're awfully good at stopping the run so that's going to be a chess match. We've got some adjustments that we'll make if we have to."

RIFLE REPORTS

Magee, on Georgia potentially stopping the run:

"That's always a mindset for us coming into every game. Everyone knows they have to stop the run. We're going to do what we've been doing and cover the width of the field, not just the box."

On the Sugar Bowl moving from his hometown of New Orleans to Atlanta:

"We've been thinking about that quite a bit. Being from New Orleans, myself, it's kind of bitter-sweet. I grew up watching the Sugar Bowl and when I played ball and started coaching, I thought how nice it would be to coach in the Sugar Bowl in the Superdome one day. Atlanta's been really great … the people have been great … the committee's been great. It's a nice city so we're just going to enjoy the game."

On the staff continuity after five years:

"I think that's very important and we talk about that time to time. We've been together for five years now and when we call plays and prepare for games, we know what we're thinking and where we're going so it helps. We've been sitting in meetings, watching tape together, and we all kind of think alike and are all on the same page. It helps and it's been very important to us and it's going to be the same thing with the team as we continue to grow with all these young kids."


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