Matchups: West Virginia - Cincinnati

West Virginia will have to keep Ben Mauk in check and account for several other outstanding Bearcats if it hopes to bring home the bacon from Cincinnati.






BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Series: WVU 13-1-1
Sat 11/17/07 7:45 PM
Cincinnati, OH

Nippert Stadium
Record: 8-1
BCS: 6
Last Game
UofL W 38-31

Click for Cincinnati Ohio Forecast
Record: 8-2
BCS: 22
Last Game
UCONN W 27-3
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2007 Schedule
First Meeting: 1970
Last Meeting: 2006
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2007 Schedule

MATCHUPS AND STORYLINES

WVU Offensive Scheme vs. UC safety Haruki Nakamura

Ordinarily, a free safety isn't first on the list of players an offense has to take into account when crafting its game plan, but Nakamura is so aggressive and active that he breaks that mold. Typically, when a free safety leads the team in tackles, it points to defensive problems, but again, Nakamura isn't the typical back end safety.

West Virginia will have to figure out a way to block Nakamura in its running game, and the matchup between Mountaineer wide receivers trying to get to him and seal him off should be a good one. With 67 tackles, the senior is a ballhawk who diagnoses plays quickly and reacts aggressively, and is a handful to deal with. Even though WVU's wide receiver screens occur a long way form his starting position, look for him to inject himself into the first wave of defenders running downhill at West Virginia's receivers on those plays.

The standard counter to an aggressive free safety is play action passes, but those aren't a huge part of WVU's offense. Many teams try to get Cincinnati's defense to overcommit against the run before throwing the ball downfield, but again, that's not West Virginia's inclination. Look for reverses and end arounds to try to catch Nakamura in the wrong place, and if he is playing close to the line of scrimmage, a quick opener or two could also put him behind the play quickly. Unless WVU suddenly breaks tendency and throws post patterns or combination deep routes, however, this battle will likely play out closer to the line of scrimmage than most matchups involving a free safety.


WVU defensive end Johnny Dingle vs. Cincinnati tackle Kahlil El-Amin

If Cincinnati quarterback Ben Mauk gets comfortable behind his offensive line, he's easily capable of putting up a 300+ yard performance against WVU. Dingle, chief pass rusher on the Mountaineer front line, has to keep that from happening.



Johnny Dingle
West Virginia's defensive end has become a very good pass rusher this year. In addition to sacks, he consistently gets good pressure on opposing QBs, and completes the package by getting his hands up to bat down passes. Against Mauk, however, he will have a tougher challenge than against any other opposing QB this year. USF's Matt Groethe is a solid runner, but his passing is pedestrian. Louisville's Brian Brohm can gun it anywhere, but isn't a threat to run. Mauk has elements of both signalcallers, and thus Dingle will have to get pressure while also keeping containment and staying in his rushing lane – the most difficult assignment of all for defensive linemen.

Mauk certainly isn't hesitant to pull the ball down and run, and he can make opposing defenses pay for rushing too many players and leaving running space past the line of scrimmage. West Virginia will have to generate the pressure that it has in most games this season, but also guard against Mauk creating big plays with his feet. WVU's usual tactic of attempting to shut down the run will certainly be in play, but this time the focus will be on the opposing quarterback as much as it will be against runners in the backfield. Look for West Virginia to be more controlled in its pass rush attempts, and perhaps run fewer blitzes than it has in other games this year.


THINGS TO WATCH

Those who haven't watched Cincinnati play this year are in for a surprise offensively. The Bearcats, who over the last few years made Big Ten offensive schemes look like those of Don Coryell's San Diego Chargers, now chuck the ball all over the lot. Improvement at wide receiver, plus the continuing search for consistent runners, have allowed UC to morph into the conventional image of what a spread offense creates.

Early on, watch how the Bearcats use different pass routes to probe the defense and force it to cover the entire field. Sixteen UC players have caught at least one pass this year, with seven players collecting at least a dozen receptions apiece.

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Also spare a moment to eyeball the right side of West Virginia's offensive line. Jake Figner and Selvish Capers will be making their third starts at guard and tackle, respectively, and the hope is that they will begin to mesh as Ryan Stanchek and Greg Isdaner have on the left. Of course, that pair has been working together for far longer than Figner and Capers, but unfortunately there's not any time left for on the job training. The duo has to improve on the execution of their combination blocks, and on their recognition of the defense. Zone blocking often involves initial double teams, with one lineman sliding off to block a defender on the next level, so making the correct read and having the correct lineman execute the maneuver is critical. WVU hasn't been as polished or effective with these techniques this year, and needs to improve in order to finish the season with the desired three wins.

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The faceoff between UC's passing game and WVU's 3-3-5 defense also bears watching. Cincinnati doesn't see that look often, but Mauk might have at least a nodding acquaintance with it from his days at Wake Forest, which employed it on occasion. West Virginia did a solid job against Louisville's high-powered passing game, and hopes to again limit the big plays that the Cincinnati offense has generated. Will Mauk be willing to throw short and underneath the WVU defense, or will he go downfield into the teeth of the WVU coverage, which produced two interceptions and five breakups a week ago? It should be quite interesting to see how the Bearcats attack, or if WVU plays things differently than it did against the Cardinals.


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