Clearing the Way

On two of Patrick White's long touchdown jaunts against Syracuse, offensive lineman Greg Isdaner was one of the first to reach the WVU quarterback in the end zone. What allowed the Mountaineer lineman to be so far downfield on those scoring runs?

"I don't think I'm very fast," Isdaner said with a laugh when asked if he was matching White's running ability. "I do my best to get down the field, but I think some of that had to do with our assignments this game – I was on linebackers a lot. With the linemen slanting hard, that opened up the belly and the counter."

"Opened up," might be an understatement, as White ran the counter for a Big East quarterback rushing record of 247 yards and four touchdowns. Much of that yardage was due to the huge holes blown open in the Syracuse front seven by the Mountaineer offensive line. With Orange linemen sometimes taking themselves out of the play by slanting hard to the front side of West Virginia's plays, WVU's linemen had the chance to slip off their combination blocks and attack linebackers. As a result, White often sprinted through the line untouched, which put him into the secondary at full speed.

"It's a quick read [for the defense], and if someone doesn't pick up on it, with Pat's speed, he can take it to the house," Isdaner noted.

Syracuse used much the same tactics as East Carolina did in slowing WVU's running game, but the adjustment of adding White's backside option runs tore that to shreds. Isdaner, whose extremely thoughtful comments reveal a thinking man's football player, would like to have another shot at the Pirates.

"East Carolina played very well against us, almost the game of their season," he said. "I know we'd like to play them again and see how it would go, but who knows, the might stop us again. Syracuse, we expected them to be more aggressive. They were more just flowing, and trying to contain, because they were conscious of the draw play.

"A big thing about the pro defense is it doesn't take the quarterback into account," Isdaner analyzed. [Syracuse] Coach Robinson, who was a defensive coordinator with the Chiefs, runs a very pro style defense and we could tell that the quarterback is definitely not accounted for on some plays. We knew that if we executed up front there would be some good runs for Pat."

In watching film, WVU could see that the Orange might be vulnerable to some quarterback runs, and when Syracuse added in the line slants, it was a mismatch of monumental proportions. White averaged an eye-popping 16.5 yards per carry, and looked at times like a professional player competing against middle schoolers. "It's not necessarily a formation that tells us [the quarterback run will be successful]," Isdaner noted. "It's just very difficult to account for all 11 players on the field. Most defenses don't account for that 11th player, but you have to against Pat. They did a solid job of taking the zone away, but we got some of them to work, It was the counters and misdirection plays that really came back to bite them."

WVU has more wrinkles and different plays in their bag, so it wasn't as if the Mountaineers revealed all their adjustments against the Orange.

"We didn't run our speed option at all. We were just running the read option," Isdaner said. "And when they were taking away the give to Owen or the give to Steve, Pat had that back door open."

Although Isdaner got a good look at some of White's touchdown runs, there are also times when he's locked up on a defender, on the ground, or in a pile. That doesn't mean he doesn't know when a play is working however.

"Dan [Mozes] and I were talking about that on the sideline during the game," Isdaner said. "It's such a cool feeling because not only do you see it sometimes, but you hear the crowd getting louder and louder the bigger the run gets."

With the running game showing no signs of slowing down, Isdaner and his teammates can expect to hear even more crowd roars in the second half of the season.

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