Bits and Bytes - Cincinnati

WVU's return game paid lower dividends than the average stock portfolio during their loss to Wisconsin. Can the Mountaineers improve their return on investment in this critical play phase?

HIDDEN YARDAGE RETURNS

West Virginia forced Wisconsin to punt seven times during Saturday's contest at Camp Randall Stadium. No once did a Mountaineer return specialist get a chance to run one of those punts back. Wisconsin punter R.J. Morse dropped two punts inside the WVU ten yard line, and placed his remaining kicks so well that the chance for a return was all but eliminated. The Badgers covered their punts beautifully as well, and were helped by the height on Morse's kicks.

The punt game was the major factor in the "hidden yardage" battle that the Mountaineer coaching staff, led by special teams coordinator Bill Stewart, is so keen on winning. On this afternoon, however, it was Wisconsin who racked up all the plus yardage plays on special teams.

On almost every exchange of punts, the Badgers gained field position. While WVU was fair catching and watching other balls be downed inside their ten yard line, Wisconsin was running back West Virginia punts to the tune of 98 total yards. That's more yards than Wisconsin tailback Anthony Davis gained on the day, and it had a huge impact on the game.

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Game Info
WVU 0-0, 1-1
UC 1-0, 1-0
Sat. 9/14 7:00 p.m.
Nippert Stadium
Series: WVU 10-0-1
TV: None
BCS: WVU-68 - UC-54
Line: UC -6
Stats & Trends
How big? Well, Wisconsin started their first drive of the game on their 20. After an exchange of punts, the Badgers were on their own 47. Wisconsin didn't score on that series, but after another exchange of punts (on which UW lost only four yards), they drove 57 yards for a touchdown.

Need more? Wisconsin's average starting position was their own 34 yard line. For WVU, it was their own 22. That's 14 yards per drive - almost a first down and a half that Wisconsin got for free.

STAY OFF THE FIELD!

Cincinnati's defensive line coach is former Outland and Lombardi award winner Tracy Rocker, who starred at Auburn. If he coaches anywhere near as well as he plays, he's going to be moving on up the ladder soon. This is his first year at UC.

NOT SO LOWLY

For those fans who are inclined to look a bit down their noses at Cincinnati athletics other than men's basketball, take note. UC, along with Florida and Stanford, are the only two schools to send their football, men's and women's basketball, and volleyball teams to postseason play the last two years in a row.

I'm not saying that means UC is going to roll over WVU on the field this Saturday night, but the reverse isn't likely to be true either. Cincinnati has a solid football team and an excellent athletic program.

HOLD THE PHONE

A.J. Nastasi's high ankle sprain, which is expected to keep him out of this week's game, will not hurt just WVU's receiving corps.

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Nastasi is also the holder for placekicks, so his absence will be noted there as well. A.J.'s backup is punter Mark Fazzolari, who is expected to fill in able this Saturday.

However, as any kicker can tell you, getting used to a new holder is akin to a quarterback getting used to a new center. There's a comfort level that kickers have with a holder, and it can take a while for a new holder to reach that same rapport.

Hopefully, Fazzolari and Todd James have gotten enough work in this week so that level will be attained, but there are always small differences in the way holders execute their jobs. That's not meant to be a knock on anyone - it's just a fact of the game.

BIG EAST RIFF OF THE WEEK

I wonder how many spots Virginia Tech will move up in this week's polls?


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