"People ask if we do talk with the crews before the game, because some crews call it closer than others," Rodriguez said. "But there is not a lot to be said. It's like talking with an opposing coach briefly. It's ‘Hey, how ya doing? How was the trip? The family? Good. Who are the captains?' They then ask you if you do anything different or unusual, and we tell them everything. Then you go. But I have never gotten a 15-yard penalty for talking during the game. I used to when I was at Glenville, because they could hear me. You can't hear anything down there now."
Rodriguez also said he wanted to find his best 11-20 players on both sides of the ball. He believes West Virginia has done so on offense, but it could, he says, potentially move some players from offense to defense, though a midseason change would be difficult.
"We want to find the top players, our best 11," Rodriguez said. "I am not sure we have done that on defense or special teams, or found our top 16 or 18 or 20. Now, I'll reserve judgment until we play two Big East games, see if there are any offensive guys that can go over."
Which would mean Rodriguez would have to move them, then make the proper adjustments and coaching them enough in the off week before heading into the Louisville game. That could be a scary proposition. The Mountaineers are looking to play cornerback Guesly Dervil more, though that's obviously not a change from offensive to defense.
"Every week you want to see how we can get better," Rodriguez said. "All coaches do that. Really, my biggest concern is the third down defense. That is more concerning than anything. We have to get that team off the field and not let them control the ball for extended periods of time. That is what is really bothering me. Penalties on third down – and I have said this to the team – on third down after a stop is like a turnover. You just give them the ball right back."
Close inspection reveals that, besides the penalties, Mississippi State (1-5) utilized two running plays on third down when WVU was in a nickel set, ran power at the Mountaineers once and also tossed a shovel pass to gain needed yardage. Some of those, as assistant coaches pointed out, were just simply good calls. Some should have been covered better, like WVU's line running past the shovel play. It really, as much as anything, comes down to making plays on the ball to gain back possession, something badly needed when MSU ran 20 more plays than West Virginia.
Regarding the ‘much-improved' Syracuse (3-3) team that enters for homecoming this weekend, Rodriguez gave a brief rundown of what, exactly, is allowing SU to actually move the football when it does, and the fact that the sixth-year head coach dealt with a similar quarterback situation when he came to WVU, trying to fit the proverbial round peg in the square hole.
"Syracuse uses bunch packages and crosses and the rhythm offense, five steps and hitting it," Rodriguez said. "(Quarterback Perry) Patterson is a lot more comfortable than he was last year, and he was recruited for a different system. You really have to play games to figure out what your quarterback can or can't do. They were feeling their way through it. Now, in the second year, he is getting comfortable. And so is the entire offense."