Rod Report - Connecticut

West Virginia will see pure tradition against Connecticut in terms of offensive styling, according to head coach Rich Rodriguez.

The Huskies (3-3, 0-1 Big East) typically press the line of scrimmage, and will likely do the same this Friday, especially against a Mountaineer (6-0, 1-0) team which leads the nation in rushing. UConn would like to force WVU to pass, and it will try to outman the Blue and Gold at the point of attack.

"Traditionally they were an eight-man front," Rodriguez said. "They will not play two-deep on traditional run plays. They like to bring people up close and get the corners involved in the run. The read zone and react quickly to the run game. They press the line of scrimmage, get seven or eight guys close to the line of scrimmage and play cover zero. We will have to use the pass game some, and we have worked hard on that this week. Our run game, with some of our zone runs, is very different from what other teams do.

"On offense, they have a typical drop back passer (in quarterback Matt Bonislawski). He is managing the game well. He is a big guy who can throw. He threw a great out in one game. And they have fast guys, good tailbacks. They have a fast guy and a big guy in Allen. They use the pass to keep you from playing the run too much. We will see play action on first and second downs and we will see the deep ball on first or second downs to test us long."

Bonislawski has thrown for 516 yards on 45 of 98 passing. He has a big presence in the pocket, standing 6-4 and weighing 222 pounds. The right-hander protects the ball well, having thrown just one interception, and allows his backfield duo of tailback Terry Caulley and Lou Allen to control clock. Caulley, just 5-7, has run for 588 yards (98 pergame), while Allen, the more punishing back, has tallied 222 yards without a loss.

Besides ball control, which UConn might struggle with considering it is last in the Big East in third down percentage and turnovers gained and has been out-clocked – though by less than a minute – despite not having a big-play offense, is the relative inexperience of West Virginia's skill players with 40,000-seat Rentchler Field. Patrick White, Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt and a host of wideouts have never played in the underrated environment.

"It was one of the loudest atmospheres we played in two years ago," Rodriguez said. "Their students are right on you. They do a great job. We had to do a lot of communication work. Our guys were saying that it was louder than they thought it would be. Pat has not been up there, but Dan Mozes and other guys have. We must be aware of that. But it's business. Players don't leave the hotel during trips. You appeal to their maturity and sense of responsibility. The position coaches go to their guys' rooms at about 10:30, after I meet with (the coaches). They tell them a little story, sing to them a little bit, make sure they are ready for the game and get everything settled down."

West Virginia does have two injuries entering the game. Defensive end Johnny Dingle will not play, and nose guard Pat Leibig has an ankle sprain. His status is unknown. He did not practice today, and with the short week, appears to be doubtful as of now. Warren Young can play nose guard, as can Keilen Dykes, if necessary. Doug Slavonic is now at 100 percent after easing back into the lineup for a couple games.

Rodriguez also commented on the receiving corps, after a question about the conditioning of Darius Reynaud, who appeared winded during the Mississippi State game. He rebounded for a career-high seven catches against Syracuse in the 41-17 win.

"The receivers have to be in better shape than anybody on the team because of the way they have to run routes and the amount of receivers we use and how they have to block every play," Rodriguez said. "This is not the best group of blocking receivers yet. We have had some pretty good guys at blocking, believe it or not. If they miss a block everybody in the stands can see it because it is in the open field. We get to watch a lot of other guys and teams and we see that they are doing well compared to them. But we have a high standard. We have had guys who did a great job. Phil Braxton had a great senior year and he would really get after guys. He set the standard. He was outstanding and we have not had anybody else like him since. He was great on the perimeter for us. But they don't only block. Believe it or not, we do throw the ball and challenge them. They can do it."

Notes: West Virginia will be going for its school-record 14th consecutive win. That would snap the 13 in a row held by the 1952-53 teams, which also began to set the Southern Conference consecutive wins mark of 30. "If I remember I will mention it," Rodriguez said, "but the focus is more in the Big East. All of us have been a part of it, especially the juniors and seniors. It's a nice record."

The Big East is 32-8 in non-conference play. "The critics say ‘The teams you beat do not have very good records.' One of the reasons is because we beat them," Rodriguez said. "I think the Big East has proven itself a bit. Our league is better. I said we needed to do it in non-conference games and bowl games. We did it in the non-conference. We'll see about the bowls."

The extra point and field goal teams and tight ends coach Herb Hand, the units' mentor, received the black shirt award this week as the best special teams unit. Rodriguez said he has been very happy with place kicker Pat McAfee's performance, both booting the ball and on his two tackles to save touchdowns in consecutive weeks.


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