The No. 9 Mountaineers (5-1, 1-1 Big East) scored 55 points in the win over the Orange and dominated a lackluster SU offense. But there were still mistakes, said head coach Rich Rodriguez, which can be corrected with the addition time provided by not having to prepare for an opponent. WVU, open this week, next plays Oct. 20 at home against Mississippi State.
"We're pleased to get a win in the Carrier Dome," Rodriguez said. "It's always a difficult place to play. The guys responded in practice last week, and I thought the intensity level and focus was good. We wanted to get right back to playing off a defeat. We played ok at times, but we can play better. Our guys executed the game plan, but in all three phases we were poor at times. We have a lot of work to do on individual play and fundamentals. We'll have three good days of work, and individual work."
That will come during afternoon sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before WVU has a light workout Thursday. It will have parts of the weekend off the rest and heal. There are no major injuries aside from quarterback Patrick White's chest muscle strain, but the Mountaineers do have many players who are weary and beat up from six games in 36 days, with four on the road. White remains questionable, and his status will likely stay that way until early next week, when the junior fully gets back into the practice regiment. The injury, White's second in as many games, raises the questions about how much West Virginia is running its quarterbacks, though Rodriguez said it was no more than in past years.
"I have been running this offense for 15 years," he said. "Our quarterbacks have very rarely gotten injured. That is part of the game, though. I have seen more quarterbacks in a traditional offense get knocked out more than ours. Pat missed one game last year and none before that. The spread offense has nothing to do with it. If you run them more, there is always a chance, but I think it's a violent, physical game and those things happen. You always have to have two or three ready.
"We don't teach the slide. If a quarterback has the first down and a big hit is coming, I don't mind a slide. But a lot of times you get hurt on the slide. We don't teach that. We do teach to finish the run and minimize the collision. Pat is so gifted in the open field, he can make everyone miss. Sometimes he can just split a tackle and run past everyone. We tell him not to forget about his great speed. Sometimes he can run past people and split them as opposed to trying to make everyone miss. Sometimes the hardest hits come from the guys you don't see. He got landed on his shoulder and chest and he got up. He was sore."
The coaching staff does teach injured players, especially quarterbacks and centers, not to rush off the field if hurt. The staff would like the players to be attended to on the field so that the backups at those slots can begin snapping, taking snaps and throwing. The idea is to allow more time to ready a reserve for play. Former WVU center Dan Mozes was hurt at Cincinnati in 2005 and was motioned to stay down by the staff, and when White began to get up from his hit, he laid back down so that Jarrett Brown could take snaps and get a few tosses in on the sideline.
West Virginia, with its move from No. 12 to No. 9, is back in the top 10, where it has been each week of the season save the last following its loss at South Florida. The Mountaineers were helped by several upsets, notably then-No. 1 USC (behind WVU in the AP Poll only) losing at home to Stanford on a touchdown pass in the final 90 seconds and then-No. 5 Wisconsin dropping its game against Illinois. South Carolina's defeat of top 10 Kentucky also allowed WVU to gain in the national rankings. Rodriguez was asked about the plethora of perceived upsets in the first six weeks of the season, when more than half of the teams ranked in the preseason top 10 have lost.
"They think coaches are just saying coach-speak when we say upsets can happen each week," Rodriguez said. "If someone is a huge favorite like USC, sure, that's an upset this point in the season. There honestly should not be a poll until October. These are kids, and if everything goes well for them and not for the other team, there will be upsets. There are players everywhere. What is amazing is you're seeing a lot of these on the road. That shows the margin of error has decreased every year. It's been this way for along time. There is less stockpiling of recruits (with the scholarship reduction to 85). You get more guys, quality guys, all over. Sometimes people say they got a bunch of five-star players, but who is to say who is five-star or two-star until you get them in the program?
"With the age of the internet and recruiting, there are less and less secrets out there. You see high school kids willing to go places they never would before. And you do always worry about their mindset. There have been times we have been flat in warm-ups and I'm thinking ‘What should I do?' and we played great. There have been other times we have been really excited and gone out and dropped the ball and played poorly. When you get out there, momentum is such a big thing. If you give a so-called underdog early confidence, they think they can hang. The confidence grows and they start to battle. For us, we have six very challenging opponents coming up. It's a very talented Mississippi State team (which beat) Auburn on the road. This week, though, we have to concern ourselves with us."
Rodriguez also addressed his relationship with first-year men's basketball coach Bob Huggins. Both were born in the north-central part of the state, Huggins in Morgantown and Rodriguez in Marion County. Huggins' family moved to Ohio when he was very young, while Rodriguez grew up in West Virginia. The two are several years apart in age, however, and so were not in school at the same time. Besides the fundraising luncheons and golf tournaments, and because of the separation of Mountaineer Field and the Coliseum, neither has seen the other much.
"We were here at different times, so I did not know him," Rodriguez said. "We have seen each other a few times in the fundraising circuit, but he has been so busy in his first year implementing his system and program. I know he has a little thing Friday night (a celebration of the start of the basketball practices termed ‘Mountaineer Madness') and I was hoping to take my son, but I will be on the road recruiting and will miss that Madness."