It seemed, at least for the few snaps the Mountaineers attempted it, that WVU was able to lineup in the I-formation with fullback Owen Schmitt as the lead blocker and run downhill against South Florida. That would have eliminated some of the longer snaps for center Mike Dent, who struggled to develop any consistency on his snaps. That simply wasn't the situation, Rodriguez said, noting that the execution along the offensive line was so poor that it didn't matter who was carrying – or what the formations were.
"We were not running the ball very well no matter who was running it," Rodriguez said of WVU's 21-13 upset loss at USF, when it ran for 188 yards on 48 carries. "Our guys fundamentals were poor. (The offensive line has) experience, but we did not play as well. We pressed a bit at times and forgot fundamentals at times. They are active up front and one of the turnovers was a result of that, but the others were poor fundamentals and bad decisions. We had numerous mistakes that we have to get corrected. You have no chance to win when you have six turnovers and no execution against a team, especially on the road. Now we have another challenge against a Syracuse team on the road."
West Virginia went more to its passing game when backup quarterback Jarrett Brown was forced into the game when starter Patrick White suffered a thigh bruise. Part of that was because the Mountaineers trailed 21-3 early in the second half, and part was that it was failing to run against the Bulls, whose rushing defense led the Big East.
"We were not doing really well offensively before (White's injury)," Rodriguez said. "Pat is a guy that has the ability to make big pays throughout the game. Jarrett can, too, but he did not play as well as he has in the past. That wasn't he main reason we didn't win the game. It was a very poor game on offense. We didn't execute; it was a nightmare. You talk about fumbles and interceptions, bad snaps. You can't win like that.
"We are going to run the same system no matter who is in the game. Jarrett was competing his tail off. He was calm under pressure and did not panic. That's not the first time he has had to do that. He has a lot of ability and it is certainly important to us.
White is listed as day-to-day. He has more motion that he did following the game, and the bruise is beginning to show signs of healing. White also has less pain than he did, and will have the opportunity to rest it today before trying to practice on Tuesday. His mobility is expected to be limited then, and so he will do very little in the initial sessions of drills for Syracuse.
Rodriguez was asked if he thought the team needed to refocus now that the goal of a national championship is almost certainly unattainable. The Mountaineers, the coach stated, did not have that goal at the start of the season.
"We don't ever sit down and say our goal is to win a national championship," Rodriguez said of a situation largely beyond WVU's control even at the start of each year. "The goal is to play West Virginia football every time out and compete for championships. The first goal is the Big East championship and we are behind on that because we lost. My concern now is to try to get better each day. … We wish we could have a do over, but you don't have that in college football. I told our team I wish we did, but (South Florida) got us."
Also, the coach addressed the cramping of superback Steve Slaton. He carried just twice in the second half because of the cramps and the 21-3 deficit. The junior, who added 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason, has not appeared to be quite as fast as he was last season, but he is also getting keyed upon even more by opposing defenses. Slaton has missed parts of three games (Marshall, Maryland and South Florida) because of cramping or being worn down.
"I don't know if there is much you can do," Rodriguez said. "He is 190 pounds of muscle. It's hard to replace all those fluids when it is hot and humid. It's not that Steve is tired. We have had a lot more hot games this year. Steve is running a lot of pass routes and sometimes on those pass routes you get more running in than you do with getting carries."