Rodriguez: Cardinals' Offense "The Best"

West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez called Louisville the best offensive team the No. 4 Mountaineers have played. And that's without stud tailback Michael Bush.

But the week-one loss of Bush, a surefire future NFL player and among the greatest running backs in UL school history, hasn't changed the No. 6 Cardinals (7-0, 2-0 Big East). Louisville still throws – seemingly at will at times – and has interchanged former reserve backs George Stripling and Kolby Smith for Bush to rank seventh in the nation in rushing offense at 216 yards per game.

"They aren't different from a scheme standpoint," Rodriguez said. "They are doing the same things. Bush is a talented guy who did everything well. But all their backs are capable and have shown that."

The 216-yard output is second in the Big East to West Virginia's NCAA-best 319 yards per contest. Both teams also rank in the national top 10 in total offense, where Louisville is second (496.14 yards per game) and West Virginia is fifth (459.29), and in scoring offense, the Cards averaging 38.7 points per game to the Mountaineers' 40.9. That leads many experts to believe the Nov. 2 game will be similar to the 46-44 triple overtime WVU win here last season.

Bush ran for 159 yards in that game and his 24 points scored tied the record for the most by any individual West Virginia opponent. All four touchdowns came via the rush, which was also a record for WVU foes. So it might seem that Louisville would be hurting with the senior and team captain out for the season with a broken right shin.

Stripling and Smith, however, have combined to average more than 100 yards per game and 806 yards overall. The duo's speed is also better than that of Bush, a bruising 6-3, 247-pounder. Yet the offense might lack the explosiveness it once had. No player has bettered Bush's season-long run of 48 yards, that coming in that initial game of the season when he scored three of Louisville's first four touchdowns.

The lack of a big-play running attack might prove detrimental to West Virginia (7-0, 2-0), which has proven susceptible between the 20-yard lines, ranking second to last in the Big East in opponent third down conversion percentage (40.2), but not in the red zone, where its odd stack defense has allowed just five touchdowns in 16 trips while also recording three interceptions and two stops on downs. The Mountaineers rate in the top 10 in scoring defense and the top 25 in total defense, as does Louisville.

"It's the best offensive team we have played, no question," Rodriguez said. "Their skill guys are future NFL guys. The quarterbacks understand what they want to do. Their receivers have big-play potential. And what is often overlooked is how good they are up front. It all starts offensively there. Their line is outstanding.

"Is this a big game? Yes, let's not be foolish. You have two teams who are undefeated so it is a big, big game. I just hope we play well. You hope your guys give their best effort, knowing they will make some mistakes, and make sure Louisville gets our 'A' game. We do that and we will see what happens."

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