Rodriguez Notebook

After beginning the 2006 campaign with a trio of home wins, the Mountaineers will hit the road for the first time on Saturday afternoon with a game against East Carolina.

While Bagwell Field at Dowdy-Ficklin Stadium may not be the most intimidating atmosphere in college football, every road game is sure to bring some different challenges. Mountaineer head coach Rich Rodriguez is particularly eager to see how some of his younger players react to being away from Mountaineer Field for the first time.

"Sometimes on the road it's easier to focus, but you worry about the young guys and how they handle it," he said during his weekly spot on the Big East coaches conference call. "We have enough veterans that I think it won't be a problem. Our guys have to understand how to go out now as long as we're ranked, and understand that we're not going to be very popular wherever we go."

No matter where they will be playing their football this weekend, there is a lot of room for improvement for this Mountaineer team. One area that needs improvement in particular is penalties. Against Maryland, West Virginia was flagged ten times for 95 yards. Four of those ten penalties resulted in Maryland first downs.

Rodriguez stated that the lack of discipline has already been addressed, and will again be a point of emphasis this week during practice.

"There are a couple of penalties that are aggressive penalties, like maybe you grab a guy when you shouldn't, or you keep blocking a guy after the whistle," he explained, with the latter no doubt being a reference to the personal foul penalty called on 190 pound quarterback Patrick White. "There are some other (penalties)like lining up offsides or stupid personal fouls that are unacceptable. We talked to them about that on Friday, and we'll address it again today. We'll get the message across that if they continue to do that they simply will not play."

Rodriguez also reflected on the play of sophomore running back Steve Slaton, who through three games has more than 500 yards rushing and six touchdowns. The coach was asked by an out of town reporter if it was nice to see Slaton play well against a "big" opponent.

"Marshall was a big opponent for us too, and he played against a lot of big opponents last year," said the head coach, referring to teams like Virginia Tech, Louisville, and Georgia. "We didn't put too much pressure on Steve because of that recruiting situation (if you've been in a cave the last three weeks, Slaton was offered by Maryland but then the offer was pulled.) We just wanted him to play and keep getting better. When he makes big plays like he's done in the past, and certainly like he did last ballgame, it gets everybody excited.

"He runs hungry a lot of times, like he wants to score a touchdown on every play."


  • Rodriguez on whether he got tired of hearing national pundits bash the Big East: "I didn't lie awake at night thinking about it, but where you get tired of it is hearing about it in recruiting. Your competitors in other leagues kept talking about our league and all that, and that got old. Now they don't have a lot to say. (Louisville's win over Miami, and other nonconference wins by Big East teams this season) just verifies what I've been saying for the last several months that we need to wait until we play the games."

  • On logo stomping by visiting teams: "I don't know how much you see it. We haven't seen it in our games, but I know other people do it. There's a certain level of respect you want to have from your opponents, and whether it's stomping on the logo or running through your drills during warm-ups, it probably only matters through the first few minutes of the game."

  • On losing two big stars, like Louisville has with injuries to running back Michael Bush (broken leg, out for season) and quarterback Brian Brohm (thumb, out 3-6 weeks.):"I think every coach would tell you that injuries are a part of the game and you want to avoid them, but it's a team game. It involves everyone coming together at the right time. If you've got enough quality depth you can keep rolling. You see a lot of the top teams in the country do that."

  • As for the West Virginia injury front, there is nothing new to report. Defensive lineman Doug Slavonic (high ankle sprain) and spur/bandit safety Ridwan Malik (hip strain) are improving and could see the field on Saturday.

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