Rod Review - Western Michigan Wrapup

West Virginia's effort, intensity and avoidance of mental mistakes were all pleasing to head coach Rich Rodriguez after viewing video of his team's 62-24 thumping of Western Michigan.

"The first thing I liked was our effort," Rodriguez said on Sunday after video study. "Our effort and intensity were pretty good the entire game. We played pretty smart, too. We had a few missed assgignments, but not as many as normal for a first game.

"We had some third and longs where we didn't execute the defense the way it was supposed to be, and we missed a couple of potential touchdown plays on offense. But overall I was pretty pleased. We stayed pretty focused for all four quarters."

Coming from Rodriguez, who leaves no stone unturned in searching for correctible errors, this assessment amounts to effusive praise for his team. And the play didn't come against Murray State or Buffalo, but against a solid MAC team that should compete for at least a division title.

"We knew Western Michigan was good coming in. I think they will win a lot of games this year," Rodriguez noted. "They played hard, and have some good football players. They took some chances defensively, and some worked, but some didn't."

When viewed against upsets such as Appalachian State's knockdown of Michigan, Rodriguez notes that it simply serves as reinforcement of his view (one shared here) that there are more and more teams capable of pulling such surprises.

"It makes people realize it's not just coachspeak when you say everybody can beat everybody," the seventh-year Mountaineer coach noted. "Everybody has players and coaching staffs that work hard. There's not the big gap that some people perceive."

RIFLE REPORTS

After watching them so frequently, do Patrick White and Steve Slaton do anything to surprise Rodriguez?

"They are so competitive you expect them to do something all the time," he observed. "Now, they can make mistakes too. But Steve is the healthiest he has been in a long time, and Pat continues to grow each and every season. He had another outstanding game. We might be [a little bit spoiled] in that we see them every day. But everyone says how fast they run, and we don't realize sometimes just how quick they are.

[In the game], I was on the headset with Calvin Magee, and I said 'Can you believe that?' on one of Pat's runs. He made one of those highlight reel runs again. It was pretty fun to watch. If anyone could bottle that, you'd be a multi-millianaire. He has a lot of God-given ability, but works hard at it too. He has a presence -- a feel -- for what happens around him."

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Zeroing in on the offensive line, the head coach saw good execution in terms of blocking the right people, but room for improvement in technique.

"I thought Mike Dent played pretty solid. He had one snap that was a little low, but he graded out as high as anyone up front. The offensive line played o.k. There were some good things, but some others we have to get better at. We had no penalties up front. For the most part, they were on the right guys, but we need to clean up some fundamental things this week. Coach Frey will handle that."

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Rodriguez also felt better about the defense after a night of study.

"I was more encouraged about the defense after watching the tape than I felt right after the game. We had seven or eight three and outs. (There were eight, with one resulting in a field goal after a WVU fumble.) We were really close to executing, and our guys were really good against the run again. We need to get better against the pass. The guys know there are a lot of ways we can get better.

"We need to get pressure on the quarterback. We got some, but not enough. We have to get that when [the quarterback] is going to throw the ball. We will continue to work at that.

"I thought the secondary did o.k. A couple of times we got a penalty or didn't cover as well as we should, and we did some new things with them. I don't want to say we are a work in progress, because that shouldn't be the case once the season starts. But I thought they did a solid job.

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Rodriguez, like many Mountaineer fans, is pleased there won't be an eight month buildup to the Marshall game.

"There will be a lot of buildup and talk about it, but not nearly so much as there was last year. I think the fact that both teams have played a game and gotten some of the jitters out will help both teams."

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Rodriguez was also generally pleased with the play of the true freshmen who participated. Sidney Glover, Pat Lazear, Jock Sanders, Brandon Hogan, Noel Devine and Will Johnson all got their first collegiate snaps.

"I think they all graded about the same, but sometimes a guy will grade out well but not make any plays," Rodriguez said. "The two little running backs, Sanders and Devine, were both solid. Pat Lazear was solid on special teams, and Sidney did really good job on special teams. True freshmen, you are pretty wide-eyed, It was neat to have those guys go out there and play well."

Junior college transfers Archie Sims and Anthony Wood also saw action.

The plans to play even more people were limited by WVU's offensive efficiency in the first half. The Mountaineers actually had more points than plays at halftime.

"Our goal is to play more people, but we only had 26 snaps in the first half, so we weren't able to do that," Rodriguez said.

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Quinton Andrews will return to the field this week, but his status on the depth chart is undetermined.

"Just because Quinton is back doesn't mean he is going to be starting," Rodriguez said. "He is a very intelligent guy, and he knows our defense. It will help to have him back. But that's why Sidney and some of those other guys got a lot of reps."

* * *

Archie Sims tweaked a hamstring during the game, which was the only significant injury to come out of the contest. White had what he termed a "sprained wrist", and like many players had an icebag taped on it after the game.

"He didn't metnion it to me," Rodriguez said. "He never complains much anyway. I don't think it is any sort of a problem."


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