West Virginia University Director of Athletics Ed Pastilong presented Saturday's game ball to Rodriguez at the beginning of the head coach's weekly press briefing with WVU beat reporters.
"On behalf of the WVU athletic department, Rich I would like to congratulate you, the coaches that were working with you, the players who were playing for you, and all the people who supported you on this fantastic accomplishment," Pastilong said. "Equally as important, Coach, I would like to complement you on the manner in which you run your football program, with emphasis on academics and compliance."
"I thought Eddie was here to coach the open week," quipped Rodriguez following the presentation. "Thank you very much. Obviously if you coach enough years you'll get enough wins. I haven't made a play in any of those games, and I've had a great staff that extends beyond the football coaches to support and administration to a whole lot of folks. I appreciate everybody's efforts."
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Rodriguez's seventh Mountaineer team has reached the halfway point of the 2007 regular season, and holds an impressive 5-1 record and No. 9 national ranking.
Through the season's first six games, the head coach has seen several positive things from his team both on and off the field.
"The thing that pleased me the most is that our guys seem like they've been focused every week, even the week we lost," Rodriguez noted. "Our guys have paid great attention to detail, and our guys have been early to all the meetings and practices. They seem like they've been very focused on each week separately. We're pleased with five wins, but we can still do better.
"We talked yesterday about the difference between success and excellence," he continued. "Success is how people compare you against someone else. We have five wins compared to someone else which is success. We've always strived for excellence, which is reaching your maximum potential. At times we've been excellent, and at times we haven't. When you build a program, I think you build a program based on excellence with success as a byproduct.
"That has been our message this week. We define our own definitions of what's going good. For us, we've been excellent at times this year and other times we haven't been, but I'm sure there are 118 or 119 other Division I-A teams that would tell you the same thing."
One reporter asked Rodriguez about hopes for a national championship, which obviously took a big hit with the loss to South Florida on September 28. Not surprisingly, Rodriguez scoffed at such talk in the midst of another winning season.
"Whoever is talking about that can just talk about it," he snapped. "It's in the past. There isn't anything we can do about it. We can control what we can control, and all we're going to do is learn from it."
Along those same lines, Rodriguez took exception with comments he has heard from fans that his team was not prepared for USF.
"It really bothers me, and I'm not taking this personally, but it bothers me when Joe Blow fan who doesn't know anything is going to go out there and say that this team is unprepared," he said. "How do you know? My practices are closed. All I can do is judge what I see in my limited experience as a head coach and what my coaches see. Our players are very focused during the week.
"When somebody says that the team is unprepared, that's just somebody reaching for an answer that doesn't know anything about football," continued the Grant Town native. "Football is an interesting sport. People probably know less about it, but think they know more about it than any other sport. I do know this, and our players know, that when you don't play well or you don't execute and you're not at your best, you're going to get beat."
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Defensive lineman James Ingram has been missing in action the past couple of weeks with a back injury, but may be able to play next Saturday against the Bulldogs. Ingram's presence would undoubtedly boost a defensive line that traveled just seven healthy bodies to Syracuse this past weekend.
"We are very concerned, simply because we didn't have a whole lot of depth to begin with," remarked Rodriguez. "We've been getting very consistent play out of Keilen Dykes and Johnny Dingle, so those two have been pretty solid, but we need more to emerge. That's going to be a point of emphasis in recruiting. We're just hanging on right now. It would be more of an issue if we were a four man front, I can tell you that."
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West Virginia's practice schedule will be a little bit different this week with the open date. Coaches will hit the recruiting trail on Thursday and Friday before returning to Morgantown on Saturday to begin preparations for Mississippi State. On Sunday, practice will resume as will the normal regular season game week routine.
On the injury front, quarterback Pat White will be limited in practice this week while nursing a strained chest muscle. White will likely not participate in any throwing exercises until the weekend, but should be good to go by the middle of next week. He is not expected to miss the game against Mississippi State.