"We've had a little early start on Mississippi stat because of the open week," Rodriguez said during his time slot on the weekly Big East coaches conference call. "They are very impressive, especially on defense. Their front seven is very talented. They've gotten behind a little bit because of some big plays."
The Bulldog defense has been as tenacious as their nickname would suggest, especially when it comes to stopping the run. Since West Virginia's forte is running the football, Rodriguez is paying close attention to the State defense on film this week.
"For us to have success we know we have to run the football and nobody's been able to consistently do that against Mississippi State," he said. "We anticipate themn to try to outnumber us to see if we can pitch and catch in our passing game."
While making the Mountaineers throw the ball may be music to the ears of Bulldog fans, that might not be such a bad thing for West Virginia. Quarterback Patrick White has thrown the ball well through the season's first four games, completing 72.5 percent of his passes for 475 yards and five touchdowns. Against East Carolina, White threw for a career-high 216 yards. Critics would be quick to point out that he also threw three interceptions against the Pirates, but even the harshest of doubters would concede that White has improved as a passer.
Mississippi State is coming off of a 48-17 loss at the hands of ninth ranked LSU. The Tigers were able to throw deep on the Bulldogs, but Rodriguez quickly dismissed any notion that the Mountaineers will just waltz in and blowout their SEC host.
"In reality, once the guys see the film it was a lot closer than that," he said of the LSU game, noting that the film from that contest has now arrived at the Puskar Center. "They gave up four big plays early in the game, and other then that it was even."
"We make sure we have at least six home games, because we are a self-sufficient athletic department. We have to generate revenue through the football program," he explained to the out-of-town writer. "Sometimes you have to play a guarantee game because of that. We try to get a regional rivalry game, like Maryland. Then we look for a home and home series with teams from another BCS conference. We have Mississippi State, Michigan State, and Auburn on our future schedules. It's a little bit of a mix. The Marshall games have been added, which is good for the state. With Marshall and Maryland, we have those close regional rivalries."
West Virginia's series with Mississippi State will continue in Morgantown next season. The Mountaineers will visit the deep south again for a game with the Tigers in 2008. Auburn will come to Morgantown in 2009. The series with Michigan State will follow the same format, with West Virginia heading to East Lansing in 2010, and the Spartans traveling to Morgantown in 2011.
"The second year is so much easier because your philosophy and approach, how you practice and all that…the players understand it so much better and the staff does to," he said. "The coaching staff would like to get in as much detail as possible, but there is so much teaching to do first. By your second or third year players start to understand (the details.)"
BlueGoldNews.com will have more coverage tonight and this week as the Mountaineers prepare for their journey into SEC country.