Matching Wits

It's a chess battle off the field this week for Rich Rodriguez and Ralph Friedgen.

Friedgen, Maryland's head coach, said tailback Bruce Perry is "doubtful" for this weekend's game. Perry has not played all season due to an abdominal strain, but appears healthy and ready to play. He did not see action in Maryland's 38-7 win over Wofford last week but rushed for 150 yards against the Mountaineers last season.

Rodriguez anticipates Perry playing. When told of Friedgen's prediction for Perry Rodriguez didn't buy the line.

"Yeah, they'll say that all week," he said, smiling. "I am doubtful that them saying he is doubtful is true."

"I think he plays this week," WVU defensive coordinator Todd Graham said. "They held him out (against Wofford) so he could play against us. I hope he plays. We want to play their best.

"He is a great back. He is quick, runs hard, hits the hole well. He is a big, strong kid. Him and the kid from BC were the two best we faced last year."

Rodriguez said quarterback Rasheed Marshall should be 100 percent. He dislocated his right (throwing) pinkie finger against East Carolina, but had it popped back in.

"It looked like the letter ‘Z,'" Marshall said. "The same thing happened to Jason Davis Marshall had his right hand wrapped in ice on Monday and did not throw. He will throw Tuesday and should be fine by game time.

"He will be a little sore, that's all," Rodriguez said, "so I guess he is doubtful."

Friedgen also described the WVU offense as "pop-gun" last season, saying that teams sometimes need to put the ball into the end zone and "we were able to do that today, to push it in. They couldn't."

WVU's players smartly did not respond to that comment, but will likely use it as motivation, as they did ECU head coach Steve Logan's comment of that WVU "would not punch us in the mouth."

The other major storyline is that of Scott McBrien, the former WVU quarterback turned Maryland starter.

Rodriguez said WVU would change a few signals, but did not anticipate it being a problem.

"After watching the game film last year I did not see anything to show them knowing a few things hurt us," Rodriguez said. "Plus, this year he is playing. He has other things to worry about. And we have a few different ways of signaling the same thing."

When asked if he expected the fans to give McBrien a rough greeting, Rodriguez said "fans here can get pretty hostile. If they know he transferred from here -- and most will because it is in the papers -- I am sure they will try to bother him.

"That is part of the game. Some will say it is in poor taste, but to boo is just part of being a sports fan. Now, I would hope our fans do not throw anything or make any personal insults. But to boo is kinda fun, it is part of the game and entertaining. Plus, if you are any kind of player you don't hear that because you are focused on the game anyway. But the guys who have to make it tough on him are our guys on defense, not the crowd."

Friedgen did not think the 60,000-plus expected at Mountaineer Field would rattle McBrien.

"I don't think Scott McBrien will be anxious or anything, because he never shows emotion about anything," Friedgen said. "He would be a great poker player. Sometimes I wish he'd smile or frown so I'd know what he was thinking."

McBrien will face WVU cornerback Brian King. Both are from the D.C. area in Maryland and grew to be friends when McBrien was with the Mountaineers.

"All week long my motivation for coming in Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be up," King said. "I saw them two weeks ago and I thought all the time how we had them on our home field in two weeks. But Scott and I will probably be lifelong friends. We grew to become friends here, and after the losses to Notre Dame and Florida State I called him. I told him to keep his head up.

"I didn't really know him until he came here. We are both from the same area, but he went to a private school and I went to public, so we did not play each other. We met here and now we talk about once a week, and not just football but other things, too. It is nice to be able to talk to someone who plays football about stuff other than football. We will be friends after this, probably for life. And I will root for him, I hope he wins, but not this week against us. I probably won't talk to him this week."

Lost in the shuffle is another former Mountaineer, Hunter Cross. Cross is a reserve quarterback and has not played a snap this season.

"Those guys earned their scout team players of the week awards against us last season," Rodriguez said. "Hopefully they will be done with that, because they have not been around it for awhile."

Musket Blasts

*Rodriguez said turnovers will be the key again this week. WVU had six versus the Terps last season and did not force any. It lost 32-20.

"Whew," Rodriguez said. "Well, we can't have that again. If we ahead in the turnover battle it bodes well for us. If we are behind it bodes well for them."

Maryland is minus-one in turnover margin this year after leading the nation in 2001.

*It was mentioned to Rodriguez that WVU's rushing offense led the nation and that its overall offense ranked second.

"Yeah, we're playing well," he said. "You would have thought last game we did everything perfectly, ran well, got a hat-on-a-hat, but we did not. There were a few mistakes, some in downfield blocking, but we still were able to run some."

"Do you know who leads the nation?" one non-Morgantown sportswriter asked. Rodriguez didn't.


"Isn't it nice that two state schools can be represented so well," Rodriguez said.

"It is probably easier for Marshall to stay up there because of all the passing they do, don't you think?" the same writer asked. "It would be harder for your team."

"It is harder for us because of who we play," Rodriguez said. "Look at our schedule. It is harder because of that. There are some folks on there who ain't too shabby."

That finished the pointless exchange.

*A.J. Nastasi is "well enough to hold, but probably not good enough to play," Rodriguez said. "He can run out there if we need him, but he will probably not be ready for another two weeks."

Tim Love, who had back spasms last week, should be ready. "If Timmy Love stays out you know it hurts bad," Rodriguez said. "He is a tough kid."

Scott Fleming is also expected to return. The long snapper was hit hard during a return and it was originally thought he had a concussion. It turned out to be a "little ding," according to Rodriguez.

*Rodriguez said Maryland's line would be the biggest WVU would face all season. Each starter is over 300 pounds.

"It's bigger than even Wisconsin," the coach said. "Therein lies our challenge. Can we get enough of a push to run the ball. My bet is they force us to throw to beat them, probably early in the game."

"We have our work cut out for us on both sides," WVU center Zack Dillow said.

*When it was pointed out that opposing players often wear helmets on WVU's sidelines to protect themselves from debris being thrown, Rodriguez said that was "probably a good idea.

"Yep, that and shoulder pads. They are protected pretty good."

UM might need it more with McBrien coming in.

*Maryland has lost only to Florida, Florida State and Notre Dame within the last two seasons. But Rodriguez also said WVU was "playing hard and with a passion and if we keep doing that we have a chance."

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