Bits & Bytes: West Virginia - Rutgers

We offer up some final thoughts, stats and observations as West Virginia closes out the 2006 regular season against Rutgers.






BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Series: WVU 27-4-2
Sat 12/2 7:45 pm
Morgantown, W. Va.

Milan Puskar Stadium
Record: 9-2
USA/Coaches: 15th
Last Game
USF L 24-19

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast
Record: 10-1
USA/Coaches: 13th
Last Game
Syracuse W 38-7
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2006 Schedule
First Meeting: 1916
Last Meeting: 2005
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2006 Schedule

.500 BALL

The Mountaineers are 56-55-2 all-time in regular season finales, dating back to 1891. (That 1891 game was also the season opener, as West Virginia played just one game that year.) WVU is 11-14 in regular season finales since 1980 and 8-7 in regular season finales since 1990. A loss would put WVU back to the .500 mark in two of those three records.

SIZE MATTERS?

West Virginia's offensive line has an advantage of more than 40 pounds per man over the Rutgers defensive line. That's not significant in and of itself, because the Scarlet Knight front has proved quite proficient this year. However, it would suggest that West Virginia might try to wear down Rutgers in the trenches with a lot of two-back sets and power runs between the tackles. That will be dependent upon the health of fullback Owen Schmitt, who was unable to fill the blocking role required by such a strategy during the South Florida game. Backups Max Anderson and Brad Palmer are available at the position, but neither has show Schmitt's lane-clearing blocking ability to this point in their careers.

STREAKING

Rutgers fullback Brian Leonard has at least one catch in all 45 games he has played in during his career. He is the all-time Big East leader in that category as well. If there's a fault to be seen with that mark, it's that the Scarlet Knights don't use him enough in the passing game. While he does lead the team in catches with 35, his reduced role in the running game (in deference to Ray Rice) should be offset by more throws. Leonard should be getting at least five or six catches per game – he's simply too good with the ball in his hands to limit him to the 11 touches per game he averages this year.

DISMISSAL

Rutgers' deep passing attack has been largely ignored this year, but there are signs that it might be making strides. Freshman wideout Kenny Britt has caught 15 passes for 267 yards and two scores in the last two games. And Shawn Tucker, who had six catches for 88 yards before breaking an ankle against Howard in the fourth game of the season, could also return to bolster the receiving corps.

With the expected battle of two titanic rushing games, might the difference go to the team that can throw the ball and complement its offensive attack most effectively?

NOT A MIRAGE

Sometimes teams can be high in the rankings in one defensive play phase because it is deficient in another. That's not the case for the Scarlet Knights, who are third in the NCAA in pass defense (144.6 yards per game) and has yet to allow a 300-yard passer. The Scarlet Knights have held the opposition to fewer than 100 yards passing four times in 2006, including last week's total of 69 by Syracuse. Rutgers has yielded just seven touchdowns through the air in 2006 and has totaled 12 interceptions.

Those numbers aren't there due to any problems against the run, however. Rutgers is ranked 18th in the latest NCAA rankings in rushing defense, limiting the opposition to just over 98 yards per game on the ground. Five opponents this season have failed to reach the century mark as a team against the stout Knight defense.

WORK ORDER

Darius Reynaud simply doesn't touch the ball enough. At the risk of taking a few touches away from Patrick White and Steve Slaton, the Louisiana native needs to get more chances, as he is nearly as explosive as the backfield pair, and could take some of the attention and pressure off them.

Reynaud has just 73 touches this year through 11 games, and 23 of those are kickoff returns. From scrimmage, that's fewer than five touches per contest. However, on those 50 plays, Reynaud has averaged 13.88 yards per touch. Project that over the 15 or so times that he should get the ball, and perhaps West Virginia wouldn't be so dependent on Slaton and White. It also could have eased the season long wear and tear on the two, who have a combined 551 touches to date. Of course, it's too late to worry about that now, but perhaps Reynaud might be featured a bit more on Saturday?


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