WVU - Temple Matchups

This week's matchups are pretty straightforward. If the Mountaineers can come out on top in the majority of these battles, a bowl bid reward will be the result.

KEY BATTLES:

WVU safety Arthur Harrison vs. Temple running back Tanardo Sharps

Although Sharps poses a serious threat on the ground, it's his receiving that we're concerned about in this matchup. Sharps has 20 catches for 155 yards this season, so he's no stranger to catching passes.

Temple obviously saw Miami 's running backs catching the ball last week against West Virginia, and it won't be a surprise to see them try to duplicate that strategy.

Harrison, who often comes in on passing situations, will have to be aware of Sharps coming out of the backfield for crucial third down conversions. WVU could also keep Sharps out of pass patterns by putting pressur eon the quarterback and forcing Temple to keep him in for blocking purposes, but the Mountaineers haven't been able to do that consistently this season.

WVU placekicker Todd James vs. Temple placekicker Cap Poklemba

A lot of you are saying, 'Hey, wait a minute! Kickers don't face each other head to head!' True enough, but this showdown could determine the outcome of the game.



Todd James
Both James and Poklemba are good kickers who have had up and down seasons. James is a solid seven for 11 in field goal attempts, but he hasn't made a kick over 37 yards, and has also missed two extra points. Poklemba is 7-12, but has somehow missed three field goals inside thirty yards, and has also missed three PATs.

It's not really fair to blame the outcome of a close game on a missed kick, but that's something that goes with being a kicker. This game, which has devolved into a bitter struggle over the last three years, could well come down to a late boot.

WVU quarterback Rasheed Marshall vs. Temple safety Jairo Almonte

Almonte plays the "Owl safety" in Temple's 4-2-5 defense, and while the alignment may be different from West Virginia's 3-3 stack, the goal is the same: stop the run.

Rasheed must read Almonte's alignment and intentions, especially on Mountaineer running plays. With Temple almost assuredly outnumbering WVU blockers on every play, WVU will have to use the quarterback to "block" one of the extra defenders.

By "block" we don't mean physically block, but rather to read the defender and determine whether to run the ball himself or give the ball to Avon Cobourne or Quincy Wilson. It's a similar philosophy to a quarterback having to get rid of the ball to an uncovered hot receiver when a defense blitzes more players than can be blocked on a pass play.

Last year, Temple was able to bring eight, and sometimes nine, players into the box to combat the Mountaineer rushing attack. Will that strategy work again with a more comfortable Rasheed at the controls?

THINGS TO WATCH

We didn't include the matchup of WVU's guards against Temple defensive tackle Dan Klecko in our matchups, simply because that battle has been highlighted all week, and most fans of both schools realize the import that Klecko's play will have on West Virginia's rushing attack.

One thing to watch for in that contest, though, is exactly who is butting heads, and how healthy they are. Klecko had to leave the Virginia Tech game with a neck injury, while WVU offensive guard Ken Sandor is battling an ankle sprain this week. Will Rod Olds fill in for Sandor if he is unable to go or is ineffective? Or will it be Geoff Lewis? How much will Klecko's injury hamper him? This is definitely a spot to keep you eye on during the first few series.

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With the Owls crowding the line as usual, we expect West Virginia to make more use of the tight end this week. Josh Bailey has proved himself adept at turning the drag pattern into big gains, so watch for WVU to try to lure the crowded Owl defenders upfield in pursuit of run fakes so they can get Bailey free.

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West Virginia has also tried to get their superbacks downfield into pass patterns on several occasions this year, but we haven't seen a deep completion to a running back down the hashes since the Rutgers game. We won't be surprised to see it resurface on Saturday.

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One other thing to keep an eye on this week is the weather and the footing. Mountaineer players have worn everything form tennis shoes to conventional grass cleats on WVU's AstroPlay surface. Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia has NexTurf, which has been labelled as slippery by players on both the college and pro levels. WVU will likely have to take several different shoe types with them to cover all the footing possibilities.


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