Rod Review: Rutgers

"Solid" would be the most appropriate term to describe West Virginia's 31-3 throttling of Rutgers on Saturday, as head coach Rich Rodriguez used it several times during his day after wrap-up. However, WVU's seventh-year head coach also pointed out numerous areas for improvement.

"After watching the film I think we can play better than what we did," Rodriguez said. "We made some plays and executed at key times, but other times we had missed assignments. It was an OK performance, but we feel that we can play better."

Rodriguez discussed several units and their performances as well. He was a bit more upbeat about the defense in general than the offense, but overall, the "solid" designation ruled.

"I think the offensive line had a solid game. We went up against a team that gave us a whole lot of different looks. We've played better at times, but overall, against their scheme, in the environment we were playing in, and with the weather, we played pretty well. The perimeter blocking wasn't as good as it was in some other games, though.

"I think the defense is playing with more confidence and not having a lot of missed assignments. I didn't think it was our best game. Maybe from a scoreboard standpoint it was one of our best performances, but with the players and how we graded out it wasn't. The big thing is we made some key plays at a key times to stop drives."

Rodriguez singled out Ryan Mundy, Reed Williams, Mortty Ivy, Antonio Lewis and Eric Wicks as grading out well.

"We had a lot of guys that played solid football, and when you hold Rutgers to three points at their place, despite the bad conditions, you have to be pleased."


In a press conference early in the week before the game, Rodriguez indicated that "outside sources" might have helped Rutgers with some inside information concerning West Virginia's offense. ABC's Bonnie Bernstein reported in the first half that West Virginia was forced to change its signals before the game to combat any possible sign stealing and deciphering of WVU's plays, but Rodriguez said that was not true.

"Coaches always worry about that [stealing signals]," he said. "We had heard that maybe they had talked to a former coach back in the summer, and there's nothing illegal about that. But we weren't overly concerned. We have preparations for that, with the multiple signalers we use, and with wristbands [for the quarterbacks]. I don't think it was a big deal."

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On the injury front, Thor Merrow and Quinton Andrews dressed but did not play, while James Ingram and Will Johnson did not make the trip. Of the four, Ingram's back injury appears the most serious. He could miss more games, while the other three will benefit from a few extra days of rehab time. However, the status of all four is still up in the air. Noel Devine (slight concussion) and Antonio Lewis (head hit) were hurt in the game, but both should be ready for Louisville.

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While Ryan Stanchek deflects all praise for his play, Rodriguez wasn't afraid to single out a player he believes should be on the all-Big East team.

"It was just a great effort," he said of the play on which Stanchek cleared out two defenders with two different blocks. The resulting 51-yard screen pass set up a WVU touchdown. "It's a great example of playing the game with passion. He got out in front and made a cut block, then got up and made another one. It's hard enough to get one knockdown and he got two. I know the players will enjoy watching that one."

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Snapping problems, last seen in the South Florida game, made a reappearance, but the biggest one of all wasn't off-target. Instead, it was mistimed.

"We did have 5-6 bad snaps that weren't very good. Bad snaps take the quarterback's eyes off his read," Rodriguez noted. The conditions didn't help any. The really bad one was just mistimed. We had some bad communication on that one.

"Mike has been solid all year," Rodriguez continued, as he defended center Mike Dent from those who might be wishing for a change. "He has had the few bad snaps, but he has been a solid performer. He understands our system. He played pretty well in the game. I have a lot of positive things to say about Mike."

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South Florida's loss puts West Virginia back in the driver's seat in the race for the Big East conference title, and although the oxymoronic "control your own destiny" was used to describe the situation, the lesson was clear. Keep playing hard, and things will sort themselves out.

"We've been taking that path since a few weeks ago," Rodriguez said, "and we are going to take the same approach now. We are just two thirds of the way through the season .We aren't worried about what happened in game five or game two. We are worried about the first play of the Louisville game, and then we will go from there."

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West Virginia will practice every day this week, but with a lessened emphasis on hitting. WVU will don full pads and hit just a couple of times this week, then on next Sunday as well, before gearing up for the Cardinals.

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Vaughn Rivers again drew praise for the excellent field position that he has produced for the Mountaineers on the punt return team.

"Vaughn makes me nervous as heck, because sometimes guy is right in front of him when he catches the ball," said Rodriguez. He has a lot of courage and great vision, and he has helped us with field position in every game. He is close to breaking one too. If we get him a couple of blocks, he can take one all the way."

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Rodriguez noted that West Virginia attacked the Rutgers defense in a bit of a different manner that it did a year ago, With Patrick White in the game, WVU's quarterback runs and read options worked well, so the Mountaineers stuck with many of the same play calls. West Virginia only had 33 plays in the opening half, which limited the number of different plays the coaching staff could have gotten to

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