Bits and Bytes – Eastern Washington

We offer up more morsels of information and a bit of rebuttal in this week's edition of Bits and Bytes.

BASIS FOR COMPARION

There has been some grumbling from Mountaineer fans about West Virginia's pass defense against Marshall. And, as usual, there have been some comments regarding West Virginia's perceived lack of a passing attack. However, a look at the numbers, along with some analysis, reveals that those perceptions are way off base.

Defensively, West Virginia allowed 12 completions in 22 attempts for 178 yards and one touchdown. While those are respectable numbers, they certainly don't paint the picture of a defense being carved up like a Christmas turkey. Marshall's longest completion went for just 26 yards, and while the Herd was able to complete a handful of intermediate range passes against the Mountaineers, they were singularly unable to get the big downfield strikes they desperately needed to even make a game of it. If WVU can post similar numbers against all of its foes this year, the coaching staff will be very happy.

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Game Info
WVU 1-0, 0-0
EWU 0-1, 0-0
Sat 9-8-06 1:00 pm
Milan Puskar Stadium
Series: First Meeting
TV: None
Sagarin: WVU-19 EWU-122
Line: No Line
Stats & Trends
On the flip side, Patrick White had a stellar day. Perhaps some observers were unhappy that he threw only 14 passes, but he completed 71.4% of them for 168 yards and two scores. White was very efficient, missing only one read according to head coach Rich Rodriguez, and threw passes to various spots on the field with good accuracy. His efficiency rating of 219.37 was 95 points higher than that of Marshall's Bernie Morris (124.60) and clearly showed that White was the better passer of the two on the day.

I'm the first to admit that numbers often don't tell the whole story, but I don't think there's any way to look at this first game and declare West Virginia's pass defense a shambles, or White the same passer that he was a year ago.

RECORD SETTER

Rich Rodriguez's 36-14 record from 2002-05 is the best such four-year span by a single coach in school history. That's a winning percentage of 72%.

MANY HAPPY RETURNS

One place where Eastern Washington hopes to gain an advantage against WVU is in the kick return game. The Eagles have returned 10 kickoffs for touchdowns in the past nine years, and have added nine punt returns for scores in the past eight seasons. The latest of those came against Oregon State, when return specialist Tony Davis returned a fourth-quarter punt 60 yards for a score.

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WVU counters with kick coverage teams that were stellar against Marshall. The kickoff coverage team yielded just 68 return yards on four kicks (an average of just 17.0 yards per return), but the punt coverage squad was even better. West Virginia blasted Marshall returners twice for no gain in the 42-10 win, thus ending the day with a perfect 0.0 opposing punt return yardage mark.

PLAYING UP

Eastern Washington is 8-17 all-time against 1-A opponents. Included in that total are wins over Connecticut (35-17 in 2001) and Idaho (8-5 in 2003). All but three of EWU's 25 games against the big boys have been played on the road. Cal State-Long Beach traveled to Eastern Washington for the Eagles' first-ever matchup with a D1A foe, and Idaho has twice filled the visitor's role.

DID WE MISS SOMETHING?

The Eastern Washington media release for the WVU game lists DePauw as Rich Rodriguez' alma mater.

PILING IT ON

Steve Slaton's 203 yards against Marshall set a new standard for West Virginia backs. Coupled with his Sugar Bowl-record 204 yards against Georgia, Slaton is the only back to rush for 200 yards in consecutive games in school history.

His combined total of 407 yards is only third-best in school history, however, Avon Cobourne put up consecutive games of 193 and 260 yards in 2005 (453 total), while Amos Zereoue tallied 417 in 1998 with games of 189 and 228.

Slaton is theoretically within reach of the three game mark of 576, which is also held by Cobourne. However, given the wishes of head coach Rich Rodriguez to limit his carries this week, he might have to rip off a couple of long runs to approach the 170 yards he needs to break the mark.


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