The Mountaineers (5-1, 1-1 Big East) routed Syracuse 55-14, scoring the most points ever allowed an Orange foe in an SU home game. WVU's first half drives were TD-TD-Punt-INT for TD-Punt-TD-FG. That's four scores in six offensive drives, three of which were touchdowns. And even on the final first half possession, only the clock and conservative play calling – and why not, with a 28-7 lead – forced West Virginia to settle for Pat McAfee's 49-yard field goal.
"I didn't even notice until an hour ago looking at the stats," Rodriguez said of the balance. "We are more concerned about being productive offensively and doing what we need to do to score. It helps, but we never go into a certain game saying we need to throw x amont of passes and have x amount of runs. I don't care. I want to execute and take advantage of how they are playing us. (The nine-for-11 ratio) was the most pleasing thing. We have a goal to score on half, or at least six possessions, a game. You usually get about 12 to 13. It's a pretty ambitious goal, but it is something we try to do to take advantage of every possession."
West Virginia scored on every second half series except its last. The three touchdowns and another McAfee field goal on five drives meant the Mountaineers nearly equaled their first half edge of 31-7 with a 24-7 advantage in the second half. Syracuse, meanwhile, managed just the two scoring drives, with three turnovers, four punts and two loss of downs.
The Mountaineers got an added bonus when they came out of the Carrier Dome healthy other than quarterback Patrick White's sprain of a chest muscle. Rodriguez believes that with two weeks to ready for the homecoming game against Mississippi State, White will be ready to play. The quarterback led WVU to a touchdown on its opening series of the second half, then was again inserted on its second with a 38-7 lead with 25 minutes left in the game. The junior was hit and spun over another body during a tackle and came up grabbing his chest before going to a knee. He was then removed and backup Jarrett Brown and Adam Bednarik combined to finish the game. White was also hurt in the previous game versus South Florida, when he suffered a bruised thigh. He did not play in the second half there.
White is again listed as day-to-day, but will be very limited in practices, and will likely not drill at all in the early part of this week. West Virginia, otherwise healthy except for a few of the proverbial and literal bumps and bruises, has played six games in 36 days, four of which were on the road. It now has an open week on Oct. 13 before hosting the Bulldogs on Oct. 20.
"It comes at a good time," Rodriguez said. "When you play the six games in 36 days, you don't have as much time for fundamentals. We will get back to that and try to fix a few minor areas. We played hard but we can use this week to improve fundamentals and sloppy things. We will practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then have a short practice Thursday."
The coaching staff will be recruiting on Friday, and will rejourn late in the weekend to ready the game plan for Mississippi State for the Mountaineers, which moved up to No. 9 in the Coaches Poll and No. 8 in the Associated Press poll, which has no direct mathematical bearing on the BCS standings, released for the first time this season on Oct. 14. Rodriguez reiterated that he did not care about the rankings. WVU did get a number of games to go its way to move back into the top 10, and its strength of schedule overall was also aided, especially by Maryland's win over Georgia Tech one week after it upset then-No. 10 Rutgers. The Knights fell out of the national polls after a loss to Cincinnati, which is No. 17.
Rodriguez said he thought West Virginia's defense played reasonably well in limiting the struggling Syracuse offense. The Orange have scored more than 14 points in just two games, one a 38-35 win over then-No. 18 Louisville. It has yet to play any of its other four BCS foes within 20 points.
"I thought the defense played well," Rodriguez said. "We didn't play too well early against the run. After watching the film, we can see guys have a lot of mental things to get corrected everywhere. We have a lot of fundamental things to get corrected on offense as well, like taking the right steps on run blocks, and being precise on passing routes. On special teams, we have to get off blocks and we got out of our running lanes (on three long Syracuse returns). Our kickoff coverage was poor."
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The development of Charles Pugh was also mentioned. The defender played extremely well in some areas, then, as he has in the past, had a personal foul on a special teams play in which he roughed the punter. The hot-cold play can irritate coaches, who cannot get a feel for a player and his ability to contribute consistently.
"He had the one penalty on the punter, and he should have tried to avoid him," Rodriguez said. "He is a very active guy for us. He just needs to understand angles better and the block points within punt block."