Rod Report - ECU

Fast-starting West Virginia has cooled considerably in the second half. That might not be as much of a concern at home, but with WVU going on the road for the first time this season, any type of lead can't segue into apathy.

That's what has happened the last three weeks, when the No. 4 Mountaineers (3-0) had leads of as much as 28 points in the first quarter before throttling down. Part of that is indeed human nature, as a 38-10 edge at the half can lead, as it did against Maryland, to less effort and getting outscored, if not outplayed, in the latter 30 minutes. But part of it seems to be a lack of focus and the never-perfect execution.

"We've got to get mistakes corrected," head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We started fast but have not finished well in all three games in all three phases. If we don't start fast and play like we have at the end of the last several weeks we will be in trouble. We will have a good, long and hard physical practice today. I'd say the fast starts have been from pretty good focus during the week. The players have paid attention to detail."

That will be a must this week. East Carolina is ‘a little different, from start to finish,' according to Rodriguez. The Pirate offense, listed as multiple, has many similarities to West Virginia's no-huddle, spread attack. ECU (1-2) has pass routes and packages that Rodriguez said he recognized from his team, the quarterback is an agile, athletic runner and some portions of the running game are comparable.

"I saw some of the same routes and saw some of the back reads," Rodriguez said. "The philosophy is to spread it out a bit and use the skill guys like we do. Now, they have not done what we have as far as the run game. They are more pass-oriented than we are. Defensively, they are an even front team. They brought the safety down really low, played him really low in the box and challenged us last year. We threw two interceptions and made bad decisions and poor throws.

"Their secondary coach (Rick Smith) coached with me at Tulane two years in 1997 and 98, so there is some familiarity there. They did get in an odd front some against Navy, so we have to be prepared for that, but that might have been just against Navy, because what they do is so different with that flexbone. But I expect them to bring the safeties down and play tight to the line of scrimmage and force us to pitch and catch and see if we can execute the passing game."

There are also similarities between the players on both sides and how the staffs model their teams with speed and running quarterbacks.

"The quarterback (fifth-year senior James Pickney) reminds me of our Jarrett Brown," Rodriguez said. "The tailback is a very fast guy, and he is outstanding, and they have one of the best wideouts we will see all year long. He could play with anybody. And they have a big offensive line and we have had problems with big guys and getting off the blocks."

West Virginia will counter that by playing James Ingram more. The redshirt freshman defensive lineman has been able to create space for himself between blockers and not get caught up in running traffic. He had four pass break-ups against Maryland and has been the surprise of the young season. WVU will also try to play more people, Rodriguez said, and hopes to have Doug Slavonic available. Slavonic has yet to play this season after injuring his ankle in fall camp.

"We will try to roll in more people at defensive line and linebacker," Rodriguez said. "Some of that will be dictated by down and distance. But James Ingram is a co-starter. We will try to use him and Craig Wilson and Pat Liebig and Slavonic and Keilen Dykes and Johnny Dingle. We would like to get them all equal reps. We have really liked what we have gotten from Ingram. He got close just on personal effort and that was encouraging. He is not there physically yet because he is just a redshirt freshman, but he got off blocks and has played well, so he will see more time."

West Virginia will work out on the grass practice field this week in order to simulate the conditions at Dowdy-Ficklen, which has a Bermuda-style natural surface. The weather could also be a concern, as it is expected to be in the mid-80s for the 4:30 p.m. kick in Greenville, N.C. It is forecast to reach the upper 60s for Wednesday and Thursday in Morgantown, and West Virginia has yet to play in the heat save the Eastern Washington game, when it simply overwhelmed the Division I-AA foe.

"We will find out how the focus is on the road," Rodriguez said. "I would be shocked and disappointed if they do not handle it like they did last year. We were very mature and ready on road trips last season. Our guys understand we going on business trip; we certainly don't have time to go to the beach or anything."

Rodriguez –

On the play of freshman free safety Quinton Andrews and his personal foul: "He was a bit hesitant, as any first time starter would be, in the first two games. As Quinton gets more comfortable you will see him play even more aggressively than he has. But that was dumb. Let's call it what it is. The only person in the program who is allowed to talk to an official is me. And they don't listen to me, so they sure ain't gonna listen to them."

On the amount of the playbook West Virginia has showed thus far: "There are 100 and some plays, have not touched half of them, but I'm not sure we can execute them anyway. We are always hesitant to call something we are not sure we can execute. And it's not just in the passing game. People always ask if we have more passing options. Yes, we do, but it's also in the run game and so-called trick plays and all that. And our defense has to be aware of that from East Carolina. One thing is for sure, throughout the history of East Carolina, there have always been trick plays. They ran different things, used the hidden ball trick a couple times, they threw off reverses. I am sure, knowing (ECU head coach) Skip (Holtz) and his staff, that they will have something ready. They will be excited. When you are at home against a ranked team you are going to pull it all out."

On if WVU would consider running a Heisman Trophy campaign for tailback Steve Slaton: "Everybody tries to make it an individual game. The media does it for obvious reasons. The players' families do it sometimes. Their friends do it. But it is a team game. If you get individual accolades that's great. But if that is what you want, you are in the wrong sport.

"What is the need for a campaign? It's not like you are going out and campaigning and explaining a platform. All the games are televised now, so why do it? They show all their highlights. All those campaigns are for is people you don't know about. If a guy is good enough, everybody will know about him, especially if a team is in the top 25. Those campaigns are silly if you ask me. We don't need that at West Virginia."

On the play of his cornerbacks: "I thought our corners competed well. Vaughn (Rivers) and Antonio (Lewis) are not real big but they understand what we want and they made plays. We still are looking for depth. Antonio cramped up and Larry (Williams, who is a starter but sat more due to back spasms) had to come in. He did ok. We still need to play four or five corners, and I want to see how and who those guys will be."

Notes: *There will be a Big East officiating crew for the WVU-ECU game. The No. 4 Mountaineers are the highest-ranked team to visit Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium since Oct./ 29, 1988, when Miami beat the Pirates 31-7.

*Safety Ridwan Malik will try to go full speed in practice this week and might be able to play against the Pirates. Rodriguez said John Holmes and Charles Pugh have played solidly, but did mention that neither had the experience of Malik. His presence would allow West Virginia to do more things defensively.

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