Rod Report: West Virginia - Connecticut

Rich Rodriguez was a bit more even-keeled after watching film of his team's 66-21 destruction of Connecticut.

"I thought we played hard and they played hard as well," Rodriguez said of the game. "The execution at times wasn't at a championship level. We had some defensive problems in the first half, and offensively we had a few missed assignments."

Rodriguez, however, couldn't complain much about the second half, in which his team piled up 42 points and stifled the UConn offense, save for a final minutes garbage time TD.

"In the third quarter we made nice stops, executed the offense, and were fortunate to get a couple of turnovers and pull away," he added. "I thought the guys were trying to put pressure on them and pull away through the whole game."

Rodriguez was his usual non-committal self in commenting on the Coaches poll, which the Mountaineers now sit atop.

"I think it's a nice compliment to the program and it gets the fans excited, but the most important one is one after the season. This is something we shouldn't worry about right now. If we are still one or two after this weekend, that is a good thing."

Rodriguez was again asked, as repeat questions began to pile up, about the comparison of the coaches and the Associated Press poll. West Virginia stands second in that poll, which is about as relevant as the presidential candidacy of Fred Thompson.

"I don't really study [the polls] but usually they are pretty close," Rodriguez said of the two surveys. Maybe all these guys [coaches and media] think alike. That is a scary thought."


Much of Rodriguez' Sunday afternoon media session was dominated by writers from national media outlets, who repeated questions and covered themes that have been well-documented all year. Comparisons of Patrick White and Steve Slaton, their roles in the offense, the evolution of the spread offense – all were again thrown out and rehashed.

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Rodriguez noted that strength of schedule isn't a big factor in determining future schedules. With three of West Virginia's five out of conference opponents eligible for bowl games, WVU did have something of an answer for critics of its schedule.

"I don't know what everyone else does, but we are scheduling four or five or six years in advance," he explained. "You have an idea of what kind of program or team you are scheduling, but you don't know what they will be like that year. Strength of schedule doesn't factor into that. You might schedule for a regional game, or one that is appealing to the fans, or maybe one that's a little different, like Colorado and Auburn for us nest year .Those are teams we haven't played in the past and kind of made for TV. But the impact for television or the BCS, thoughts aren't on that at all.

"But there's no question that it answered some critics about our strength of schedule, especially early in the season," he continued. "Maryland, East Carolina and Mississippi State, we thought they would be good. Ant that certainly helps at the end of the year, that the non-conf was harder than first thought."

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Rodriguez again related his post-South Florida speech to his team.

"I just had a feeling that this was going to be a year when a lot of things would happen in college football," he said. "I thought it would be hard to go undefeated, and I told the team that, but I don't know if they believed me or not. And I knew we could play better than we did in that game, and that we needed to stay the course. I am still cautious, because a lot of teams have gotten knocked off.

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Best Rodriguez comment on assessing the Pitt game and its ramifications:

"To me, this is now a semifinal game. And you don't get to get to the finals if you lose in the semis."

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West Virginia came out of the UConn game in relatively good shape. Despite the normal bumps and bruises, there were no major injuries. Thor Merrow got some late playing time after battling a bad back for much of the season. Ellis Lankster, who broke a bone in his hand during the week, played without any ill effects. Patrick White, who was sick at various times during the game, is not expected to have any lingering effects of that issue.

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Several indirect questions concerning other job openings were posed, but Rodriguez deftly sidestepped them.

"If [anyone] call, then we are flattered, but I am focused on Pitt," he said when asked what he would do if contacted about a job opening. "I don't know how all that works, and nobody is calling. That is the furthest thing from my mind. I am happy with the support we are getting. I am not even talking bowl games with our guys. We are talking Pitt.

"People say this is distracting, but I am not on the phone or on the Internet," Rodriguez said in response to a question about the Alabama drama of a year ago. "Everyone said it was distracting [when all that happened] before the Rutgers game. Who was it distracting to? It wasn't distracting to me. I was just doing my job."

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Rodriguez will continue his policy of asking the local media to concentrate on the upcoming game, and not ask questions about scenarios beyond the game against Pitt.

"I will ask the local media that you don't project any scenarios beyond this weekend," he confirmed. "What is important right now is Pitt. The biggest thing that will help our guys make it like a normal week is that it's the seniors' last home game. We make a big deal out of that here. That will give our guys a sense of normalcy. We'll talk about it today, and explain that the focus must be just like it was last weekend."

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Rodriguez also commented on his feelings on the current BCS setup.

"The tradition will always be there for certain college programs, but I think this is good for other teams. It is exciting for the fans and the programs, and it helps other programs continue to grow, and makes them think they can be the next one. We hope that is the case with our program. We have won several Big East championships and ten games three years in a row. We hope that when the discussion is on the top ten or 15 programs in the nation, West Virginia is included in that conversation.

"The biggest thing that you have to overcome at a school that hasn't won a national championship is in recruiting. A lot of schools will sell their tradition. You start playing for them or competing for them, especially in a place like West Virginia, which is a small state and has a small population and you can overcome that."

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