Matchups: West Virginia - Mississippi State

West Virginia will need to win these matchups if they are to start the second half of the 2007 football season off on the right foot.






BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Series: WVU 1-0-0
Sat 10/20/07 3:30 PM
Morgantown, W. Va.

Milan Puskar Stadium
Record: 5-1
USA/Coaches: 7th
Last Game
Syracuse W 55-14

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast
Record: 4-3
USA/Coaches: NR
Last Game
Tenn. L 21-33
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2007 Schedule
First Meeting: 2006
Last Meeting: 2006
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2007 Schedule

MATCHUPS AND STORYLINES

WVU cornerback Antonio Lewis vs. MSU wide receiver Tony Burks

Burks responded to prodding from his coaches to haul in five passes for 79 yards against Tennessee. Both were season highs for the talented, yet erratic passcatcher, who has by turns impressed and frustrated Bulldog coaches and fans. Burks was put through the wringer in the week of practice leading up to the Tennessee game, and fought through the challenge to bounce back with his best performance to date.

The play of West Virginia's secondary in general and Lewis in particular is also something of a rebound story. After hearing all winter, spring and summer about the unit's shaky play, Lewis and company have put up outstanding numbers in 2007 to earn a spot among the nation's top defenses.

Which player will continue on the path of redemption and gain the upper hand? Like man such battles, the play of those around them will help determine the final outcome, but MSU will almost certainly have to make some big plays in the passing game to keep pace with West Virginia's offense, and Burks is the first player the Bulldogs will look to in order to achieve that goal. Lewis, one of the feistier players on the defense, and likely on the entire team, won't back down from that challenge, even though he will be at a decided size disadvantage against the 6-4, 220-pound Burks.


WVU offensive scheme vs. MSU safety Derek Pegues

Pegues, one of the best defensive backs in the country, will be a key part of the Bulldogs' defensive plans against the Mountaineers. The Jim Thorpe candidate will have to help MSU combat West Virginia's running game and provide quick support, but he will also be challenged by the Mountaineers' bubble screens and swing passes, as he will be the player counted on to weave through traffic and make tackles, as well as clean up when WVU executes a play well and puts potential tacklers on the ground. He will also have to be aware not to be caught looking into the backfield should West Virginia choose to go downfield with passes, but he has plenty of experience with this sort of play under his belt.

West Virginia likely will be cautious in attacking deep in the middle of the field, as Pegues carries a well-deserved reputation as a ball hawk with a knack for making interceptions and big hits. More likely, the Mountaineers will try to get him moving up against the runs and horizontal plays, then try to catch him in the wrong alley and crease the inside with a quick running play. These are the types of looks that Owen Schmitt can capitalize on for big runs, so it won't be a surprise to see him get the ball a couple of times in the second and third quarters on quick hitters between the tackles.

Pegues is a savvy veteran, and won't be easily fooled, but it will be interesting to see how the Bulldogs use him against West Virginia's offense, which is a look they rarely face.


THINGS TO WATCH

Although no one seems to be noticing, MSU is in contention for a bowl bid, and is much better than it was a year ago. West Virginia is a better team as well, but has the gap between the two teams closed, or widened?

It's certainly a cliché, but this does appear to be one of those games where, if the underdog stays close, it can make a game of it at the end. MSU was certainly in position to do that last year at home, driving twice into the red zone in the third quarter while trailing by just two scores, but suffering interceptions. If the Bulldogs can put up an early score and take the WVU crowd out of the game (which will likely be easy to do, given the apparent ennui with which this game is being treated by the home fans), the Bulldogs could take a giant step toward the postseason.

* * *

Has West Virginia become predictable on its snap count or timing? It's time for you to make the call. Watch how West Virginia's quarterbacks signal their readiness for the snap (it can be a clap, a point at the ground or some other indicator) and then see if the time until the snap varies, or remains consistent. If not, then it's something that may need to be addressed.

* * *

Everyone talks about the blocking West Virginia gets from its wide receivers, but if you are at the game, take a few plays to watch the receivers on runs (television shots typically aren't wide enough to catch the receivers blocking downfield on a consistent basis). You won't just see chop blocks or guys screening defenders. Players like Dorrell Jalloh really unleash themselves on defenders, and the constant hitting can take its toll on defenders. Watch the body language of those defenders, and try to decide if the Mountaineer wideouts are having an effect.


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