Looking High and Low

Like the mountain state, the Mountaineer football team was full of both highs and lows this Saturday against East Carolina. Although it was a dominating performance, a quality football team looks not only at the positives of a game, but also closely evaluates the negatives.

It is important after a big win like the Mountaineers had on Saturday, that the team realizes there is still plenty of room for improvement and areas that must be worked on before conference play begins. Here are the highs and lows from this weeks game.

The Highs

Rushing Game: Even the most novice football fan could see just how dominating West Virginia's rushing attack was on Saturday. The Mountaineers rushed for 536 yards and completely controlled the football game with their rushing attack.

Avon Cobourne rushed for 260 yards on his way to surpassing Steelers running back Amos Zereoue's WVU and Big East career rushing record. Avon, however, was not alone in his rushing dominance. Junior running back Quincy Wilson ran for 198 yards himself, giving West Virginia fans hope for both now and in the future.

The performance on Saturday catapulted the Mountaineers into the number one spot in the country in team rushing. Cobourne also moved himself into fifth in the country in total rushing yardage with 638 in four games.

Number 22 trails only players who have already played in five games. With these incredible numbers it is hard to understand why Cobourne's name has not been popping up on Heisman lists throughout the country.

Defense: The Mountaineer defense looked better this week than I have seen it look since Coach Rod arrived in Morgantown. The defense looked incredibly fast and seemed to always be around the ball.

The rush defense was especially impressive. The Mountaineers held the Pirates to only 65 rushing yards and did a great job being in proper position on option runs. The WVU defense also forced a fumble and came up with two acrobatic interceptions.

Coach Logan's Pirates did manage to throw for 207 yards but a major bulk of this yardage came in the second half when WVU's defense was giving a bigger cushion to keep the Pirates in front of them and avoid big plays.

Much of this defensive success is a direct result of thesuccess of the Mountaineer offense. If the "Spot the Ball" offense can move the ball and give the defense a chance to rest, I believe we will see the defense play better and better each week.

No Major Injuries: The Mountaineers have made it through these first four games with very few major injuries. A.J. Nastasi and Tim Love are the only Mountaineer starters to miss significant playing time and both are expected to be back in the lineup soon.

The only notable injury to come out of Saturday's game was Rasheed Marshall's dislocated pinky finger. Rasheed is not expected to miss any practice and will be in the lineup on Saturday. The Mountaineers have stayed much healthier than last season and the mew turf has been a big help in keeping the Mountaineers injury free.

Although these areas are going well at this point in the season, there is always room for improvement. The Mountaineers must continue to set goals and sure up these areas even more. Over confidence often leads to letdowns, and the Mountaineers cannot afford a letdown in any game this season.

The Lows

Passing Game: The Mountaineers impressed no one with their aerial attack on Saturday. Rasheed Marshall and company only managed to throw for 33 yards against the Pirates and their only big play through the air was called back on a holding penalty.

It is important, however, to remember that the Mountaineers really did not need to pass much in this game. As the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." WVU's rushing attack was far from "broke" and Coach Rod had very little reason to attempt to put the ball in the air. One of the keys to Coach Rod's spread offense is to take what the defense gives you. We will have to wait until a team makes us throw the ball to evaluate the passing game.

Special Teams: The area that has haunted Mountaineer fans for a long while has still made no major strides towards improving. WVU kicker Todd James missed an extra point on the Mountaineer's first touchdown, the Mountaineers were caught off guard by an ECU onside kick, and the combination of Mark Fazzolari and Todd James averaged just over 38 per punt. Todd James' 33 yard field goal and the touchdown scored off of the muffed punt were positive plays that the Mountaineer special teams unit can build on, though.

Fumbles: Although the Mountaineers recovered all but one fumble, the offense had a terrible time keeping the ball off the turf. Miquelle Henderson and Rasheed Marshall both fumbled balls that the Mountaineers were able to recover. The gold and blue were not as fortunate on a fumbled option pitch from Rasheed Marshall to Avon Cobourne. The Pirate defense returned the loose ball for a touchdown and took an early lead. You cannot score if you don't keep the ball and the Mountaineers must improve on keeping the ball in their hands.

Penalties: Every team will be penalized for a hold or a false start from time to time, but it is the penalties that come from mental mistakes that can mean the difference in the game.

WVU was called for a number of personal fouls on Saturday which has seemed to be a trend in recent years. Mountaineer players must learn to keep their composure and use their heads on the field. A fifteen yard penalty can kill a drive and momentum. The mistakes are simply inexcusable.

There is no reason to panic, but these areas need to be fixed if WVU hopes to continue winning football games. Special teams mistakes, turnovers, and penalties that often go unnoticed in a dominating win are the things that can prove to be disastrous against teams like Miami and Virginia Tech. The Mountaineer coaches must focus on correcting the "little things" so that they do not become "big things" later in the season.

The Mountaineers face a tough Maryland team this weekend in what will be a huge game for both squads. Former Mountaineer quarterback Scott McBrien will be bringing his Terps to Morgantown hoping to end the excitement that is circulating around the Mountaineer football program.

We, as Mountaineer fans, need to pack the stadium and keep up the intensity from the kickoff until the final gun. Let's make Scott McBrien remember what it means to be a Mountaineer and have him singing "take me home country roads" wishing he could come back to the Mountaineer program after the game. Let's Go Mountaineers!

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