The Mountaineers (7-1, 2-1 Big East) are idle before hosting the Cardinals, who defeated Pitt via a last-minute fumble recovery on the U of L goal line. WVU beat Rutgers 31-3 in a dominant performance in Piscataway that seemed less so when head coach Rich Rodriguez watched game film. Because of Louisville's penchant for throwing the ball downfield, West Virginia will concentrate on those defensive areas during the 10-day window. It plans to practice Monday through Friday of this week, though not all will be in full pads.
"We knew we were going into a tough environment and I thought our guys were focused, but after watching the film we did not execute as well as we would have liked," said Rodriguez, playing the not-too-high-or-low card. "We allowed some plays, but we made plays when we had to. We will have the Louisville game plan ready by the end of this week. We will work on fundamentals and do some things with blocking, both perimeter and up front. We obviously have to work on pressure. We got a little bit, but not as much as I would have liked. We'll look at pass rush and breaking on the ball better, because we know we have a great challenge with (UL quarterback Brian) Brohm and the passing game."
Louisville (5-4, 2-2) has won two of its past three games, with Brohm throwing for 236 yards in with win over Pittsburgh. The Cardinals are finally beginning to get healthier at wideout with Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia catching six and four passes, respectively, to lead the offense. Eight other players had receptions, but no individual caught more than two, a sign of the balance of the pass with Brohm. West Virginia, however, won't emerge in any exotic formations or schemes to slow the Cardinals, mainly because the coaching staff believes in doing what has worked thus far, especially in a key game.
There's no questioning how much South Florida, Louisville and Cincinnati have impacted the Big East. U of L won the league in 2006, USF was ranked No. 2 this season, and the Bearcats were ranked at one point this year. WVU has actually beaten all the traditional Big East teams for each of the last two-plus seasons, but lost games against USF twice and Louisville once.
"If you have the commitment from the University to the facilities and from a staff standpoint, if that is there and you get the right people, any program can be built and have success," Rodriguez said. "South Florida, I thought that would be a tremendous boost for their program, probably the biggest one of any of the three. They can now recruit in Florida and tell kids that they can play in the Big East and in a BCS conference without leaving home. I thought it would make it harder on the rest of us to go down there and recruit, and it has."
Rodriguez was asked if he would ever attempt to motivate his players during a big game by using similar means as those of Georgia head coach Mark Richt, who told his entire team to rush the field after UGA's first score against Florida. The team did, and the Bulldogs won in an upset.
"I know Mark and Urban (Meyer, UF's head coach), and they understand their teams," Rodriguez said. "I know at midseason, and it sounds crazy, but these guys are kids and it's like they need woken up at times. It is such a business and such a drive on them that it seems like some of the kids are not having any fun at all despite national TV and 80,000 fans. Last year, we were halfway through and it didn't seem like they were having any fun, so I made them all stand up and chest bump each other and high five each other before going out. Then they did that during the game, so that was neat. That's the most unusual thing I have done, which isn't very much. I don't know if I'd go there (taking the 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration) because I would be nervous about where you are kicking from, that they would score and steal the momentum right back."
Note: The seventh-year coach also addressed the play of Eric Wicks, which will loom large in the Louisville game: "He has been here quite some time and is one of our better athletes. We have multiple safety positions and we have left him at the same position for the last couple of weeks. He is getting comfortable with what we do coverage wise and we have been really pleased with him. He is one of the guys who can make a big play defensively and turn the game around. He has been close a couple times, and we are waiting for that big play that helps us turn momentum."