Rod Report - Syracuse

With last Friday's loss to South Florida in the rearview mirror, Rich Rodriguez and company look to get back to their winning ways this Saturday at Syracuse.

Of course the million dollar question in Morgantown this week concerns the health of junior quarterback Pat White, who left Friday's game with a thigh bruise late in the first half and never returned. White has been day-to-day, and at this point looks to be a gametime decision on Saturday.

"What time do we play, noon on Saturday? I'll decide at noon on Saturday," Rodriguez told reporters during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. "If I decide earlier than that, then you won't know before noon on Saturday and nobody else will either."

With or without White, the Mountaineers look to have their hands full on Saturday with Greg Robinson's Syracuse Orange. Though the Cuse stands just 1-4 on the season, the lone win came in Big East play at 2006 conference champion Louisville. As a result, the Orange are actually tied for first place in the conference at 1-0 with Connecticut and USF.

After stepping out of conference to take on Miami (Ohio) this weekend, Syracuse returns home looking for their second Big East upset of the season. Rodriguez says that the win over Louisville should get his team's attention leading up to this weekend's game.

"You looked at the film, and they had a little bit of extra bounce in their step," he said. "They were clearly ready to play, had a good plan, and got after them for four quarters. Louisville scored some touchdowns late, which they can do because they're explosive."

Offensively, the Orange are led by sophomore quarterback Andrew Robinson. The 6'3" 222 pound signal-caller has thrown for 1,145 yards and seven touchdowns against just one interception in his first season as the starter. Robinson has the ability to pick teams apart underneath, and is also not shy about throwing deep to speedy wideouts Taj Smith and Mike Williams, both of whom have three touchdown catches on the season.

"He's been pretty smart with the ball," Rodriguez noted. "In fact, for a first time starter I've been impressed with how he's not been taking negative yardage plays.

"One thing that we will expect and probably will see is a lot of deep balls down the field, and not just in some play-action big plays," he continued. "They'll get a one on one match-up in press man, and check right down to a deep ball. Because of Smith and Williams, and some of the deep ball threats they've got, it makes sense. He's hit a few of them."

Defensively, Robinson has shown more of a variety in packages than he has in the past. The former NFL and Texas Longhorns defensive coordinator has given both odd and even looks up front, according to Rodriguez.

"He's mixing it up a little bit. He's not heavy blitz, but he's not anti-blitz either," explained the former Mountaineer defensive back. "If they can stop you with just base defense and crowding the box, I think they'll do that.

"What they've done this year is gone from an even front, traditional defense, to an odd stack more like we see with our defense. That odd stack defense is something they've used more and more, not just in passing situations. Fortunately for us, we've seen it a lot in practice, but we've got to be really prepared for two types of defenses: the even front and the odd stack defense which they've been doing more of this year."

When playing at Syracuse, another variable comes into the equation: the Carrier Dome. Many of these current Mountaineers made the trip north two seasons ago, but even stars such as White and Steve Slaton only saw the field for a minimal amount of time. With that in mind, Rodriguez said that the team will spend a little more time than normal at the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility this week.

"It's probably the most unique or different away game atmosphere that you'll ever play in, even more so than the Superdome or Georgia Dome because it's a smaller confined area," he said. It is different."

NOTE: Rodriguez addressed the fact that his team does not play a Big East home game in October. The Mountaineers have already played three road games in 2007, and each of the first three conference games will take place on the road.

"The only thing I was complaining about with the Big East and the schedule was that I would have liked to have had more home games in October," said the Big East's dean of coaches. "We don't have any in the conference. That's when the weather is halfway decent, and your fans aren't as occupied with hunting season and all of the other things that go on late in the season. I think most coaches would tell you that they'd rather play more home games in October than November, just for weather reasons. The schedule was made out a long time ago, though."


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