The View From 217 - Rutgers Edition

Could a win at Rutgers possibly be worth less? Maybe, maybe not. In the short run, a 40 point win over a miserable Rutgers team means little.

All we know after this game is we are better than one of the dregs of college football. The number one positive in this is that this game is a win. We have now won four games, one more than last year. However, all of the teams left on our schedule beat us last year, some rather convincingly. So what do we know through half the 2002 season? Here is what I have learned.

First, as Rasheed goes, so goes the Mountaineers. We have two excellent running backs. We have a pretty good offensive line. We have some talented wide receivers. And we have a quarterback who is struggling to come into his own. Wisconsin showed the blueprint. Maryland was the first team to really exploit it. And Rutgers tried it. Sell out to stop WVU's running attack. Make WVU beat you through the air.

What is really mind boggling in all of this, is that some people act like we have never seen this before. Teams employed this strategy to beat Don Nehlen coached Mountaineer teams for years. Stop our runners and take your chances. Even in 1998, when the Mountaineers were blessed with the best wide receiver corps in team history, and the best pure passer ever to wear the blue and gold, teams stacked the line to stop Amos Zereoue. Ohio State did it. Missouri did it. Heck, even Navy tried it that year. What we have is a young quarterback who is struggling to make his throws.

Second, when Rasheed does make his throws, the wide receivers have to catch the ball. Twice on Saturday, Rasheed lofted perfect passes towards the endzone, only to have the receiver leave his feet too early and miss the ball.

Some would question why these passes seem to look like jump balls. The answer would be that the QBs are coached to throw the ball up, and the receivers are coached to go and get it.

Also, receivers have to catch balls they get their hands on. Passes don't always come in perfectly on target, no matter who the quarterback. Receivers have to latch on when they get a ball at their feet, to the side, a little high. These catches have to be made.

Third, we have a decent run defense. This defense is much better than last year. But we really haven't seen it much against the good teams. Poor tackling against Maryland. Poor pass coverage and pass pressure against several teams. We have to have more consistency from the defense if we are going to beat the better teams in the Big East.

Quincy Wilson has emerged as a star in the making. The knock on Q at the beginning of the season was that he wasn't running strong enough. He even went so far as to fall into a battle with Cassel Smith for the backup job. Needless to say, to those paying attention, Q is now the solid number two, getting major minutes and getting big carries with the game on the line.

The punting certainly was an improvement at Rutgers. Obviously the coaches decided to kick to the sidelines to avoid any type of return. It also helped WVU keep tremendous field position all evening long.

The real test comes this week. While most would think that a game with a 1-5 Syracuse team shouldn't be much of a test, they would be wrong. You never overlook Syracuse no matter what their record. The Orangemen are on the verge of packing it in. WVU needs to pounce on them like a pack of rabid wolves. Rich needs to put his foot right on Pasqualoni's neck and stand on it until he cries uncle. I can certainly remember a Syracuse team stomping us in 1996 the week after the infamous Miami punt block. This game is ripe for some payback.

This WVU team has made some nice improvement over a year ago. Our defense is swarming to the ball a lot better. Our offense at times looks dominant. Our running game looks as good as it ever has. But the fact of the matter is, WVU has a long way to go to get back to the level we are accustomed to. Winning this week against Syracuse would be a huge step in the right direction.

This week the team needs its fans more than ever before. Fans need to show up in force. Fans need to show up angry. And fans with healthy voices they are willing to vent on the Orange. Be there, high noon, Saturday.

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