Back to Work

Just because the Mountaineer football team doesn't have a game this Saturday doesn't mean they'll be taking the whole week off.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez discussed a variety of topics during his ten minute spot on the Big East coaches conference call Monday morning. The head coach begin his remarks with a look back at Saturday's win over East Carolina.

"We were pleased with getting our first road win of the year," he said. "It was a tough environment. They had a nice plan against us. We struggled at times, but we came away with the win. There are a lot of things we can get better at. We'll start work on that today. The open week comes at a good time. There are things we've got to get corrected, and this is a good week to get that fixed."

Rodriguez noted that he was impressed with the Pirates' defensive fundamentals. Skip Holtz's ballclub held West Virginia to 153 yards on the ground, the lowest rushing total by a Mountaineer team in nearly a calendar year.

"They did a nice job of fundamentals in getting off of blocks, and making good tackles," said Rodriguez, who is now 5-0 against ECU for his career. "We didn't help by making a few mistakes that we haven't made in the past."

One reporter asked whether Rodriguez feared the film of the ECU game would spread around to future opponents and unveil some sort of scheme that could slow, if not stop, the Mountaineer rushing attack.

"I'm sure that everybody's going to watch the film," admitted the Grant Town, W.Va. native. "I think a lot of times the schemes are way overrated, and it's more about players making plays on both sides of the football. We only gained 153 yards rushing, but that's not overly bad. We got a lot of first downs and completed a few passes. You've got to give them credit too."

Rodriguez does not anticipate making very many adjustments despite Saturday's troubles running the football.

"We can make a few adjustments here and there, but to be honest with you I don't think we need to do that as much as we need to work on getting fundamentally better, on both sides of the ball," explained Rodriguez. "If we do that, we'll be better as a team."

The Pirates limited the vaunted West Virginia offense to just one big play, a 60 touchdown on a catch and run by junior slot receiver Darius Reynaud. The former high school tailback has now scored three touchdowns in the past two games, and has emerged alongside quarterback Patrick White and running back Steve Slaton as a big play threat when he has the ball in his hands.

"Both this year and last year he's made some nice plays for us," Rodriguez said. "He's been outstanding with the ball. He's made some nice catches, made some good runs, and obviously he's helped us on kickoff returns too. Where he has to get better is without the ball, and he knows that. He's a competitive guy, and he certainly gives us another weapon, which we need out in the slot."

The passing game wasn't the only area of improvement for West Virginia in Saturday's game. The Mountaineers also did a better job of avoiding penalties. Despite the improvement, Rodriguez would like to see even more progress in that category.

"We only had two (penalties) of what I call the stupid variety," he said, referring to dead ball personal fouls. "One was really bad; the other was close, after watching it. It was a tough, hostile and intense environment. I like when we get none, and we'll keep working on that."

Even though there isn't a game this week, the Mountaineers will still put in plenty of work at Milan Puskar Stadium.

"We're going to practice today, tomorrow, Wednesday, and probably a light practice on Thursday," Rodriguez said. "They'll have Friday off, and then we'll have another practice on Saturday. Like I said, we have a lot of things to clean up and we'll work on that this week."

Defensive back Antonio Lewis, defensive end Johnny Dingle, and wide receiver Brandon Myles are all suffering from mild knee sprains, but should be back on the field by the end of the week. Both Reynaud and Slaton missed time against East Carolina with leg cramps, but returned to action and will not miss any practice time this week.

Next Saturday's game in Starkville will be the final non-conference test of the season for Rodriguez and company before kicking off the Big East slate against Syracuse on October 14. The 2005 Big East Coach of the Year again talked about how impressive the conference has been so far.

"As I said last week, I think the Big East is showing itself to be a pretty good league early in the season," he said. "I said before that the key would be the non-conference games, and the bowl games, and thus far in the non-conference games we've played pretty well. I think it's proven that right now from top to bottom, the Big East is one of the best conferences in the country."

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