Things Of That Nature - Boston College

Turnover margin has been a big key to the turnaround in West Virginia's football fortunes.

Like any other coach, Rich Rodriguez knows the importance of winning the turnover battle. His Mountaineers defeated Boston College 2-0 in that category on Saturday, and those two extra possessions were key in WVU's 24-14 win.

"It has played a huge role," Rodriguez said of WVU's turnover turnaround. "Offensively, we have stressed taking care of the ball, and being able to get a lead and to run it has helped. We don't have to be as risky in the passing game.

"On defense, we have been able to create some turnovers. When you get ahead you can force more because you can force the other team to throw the ball and take some chances."

Those statements may seem painfully obvious, but they are also concrete truths. WVU was minus eight in that category last year, and the final record of 3-8 reflected that statistic. This year, West Virginia is 7-3 while leading the Big East conference in turnover ratio.

MUSKET BLASTS

Was this Coach Rod's biggest win at WVU? From one perspective, it was.

"From a standpoint of the emotion of our seniors, and seeing how happy they were after the game, it made it the most gratifying win so far," Rodriguez reflected. "Seeing them celebrate with the students and fans on the field, that was really great."

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Rodriguez has long fought the notion that West Virginia is a finesse team, and he still doesn't think that opponents recognize that until after they play the Mountaineers.

"When I see a few of the coments from other players, and other coaches comment that we played physically, then I think that's a sign of respect. Sometimes I think we have to play a team before we get those comments, though."

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Rodriguez was hesitant to call Saturday's game the best of Rasheed Marshall's career, but he was pleased with some of the intagibles in his play.

"I don't think it was Rasheed's best game throwing," Rodriguez said of his sophomore signalcaller.

Rodriguez thought for a moment before mentioning the Cincinnati game as a contest this year where he threw the ball better, but was quick to note that Rasheed did other things well against the Eagles.

"He was sharp mentally the whole game. I thought he was manging the offense well and had a good feel for what was going on. We're still confident that we'll have a big passing game before the year is out."

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Rodriguez also talked about the hard times of a year ago, when the mounting loss totals wore on him.

"Anytime you are not winning it's hard on you physically and mentally. It's hard to sleep. Anyone who coaches is competing in the game, too. And losing is tough.

"I never lost faith in what we were trying to do. There were some things we had to change, but we were doing good things, it just wasn't showing up in wins and losses. When you get a lot of negativity and people questioning you it can stray you off the path, but we didn't let it do that.

"It took us longer to teach some of the techniques and to change the system. We didn't have a whole lot of luck from the injury standpoint, either. And then my father in law got sick and passed away, and of course that didn't help. It was a much more difficult year that I could have imagined."

It's one however, from which he has rebounded quite nicely.

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Another big factor in WVU's record reversal has been the steady improvement in kick coverage.

"I was really pleased with our kickoff coverage. We had two shanks on punts, but the other punts had pretty good height, and our bullets, James Davis and Adam Jones, did a good job getting down and disrupting their return man. I though we covered really well."

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On the injury front, a number of players are battered and bruised. Miquelle Henderson left the game on crutches and has an ankle sprain. He will be questionable for Virginia Tech next Wednesday.

Others among the walking wounded include Jahmile Addae (hand and knee), Ken Sandor (ankle), Ben Timmons, Brian King, and Grant Wiley. No immedite prognosis was given, since the next game is still ten days away.

"It's a good thing we have an open date," Rodriguez said. "A lot of guys were beat up and standing on the sideline during the second half.

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To allow his players a chance to rest, this Sunday and Monday, as well as next Saturday and Sunday, will be off days. Also, this Tuesday and Wednesday the backups and young players will get more work, while the veterans will have a lighter workload.

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While admittedly being biased toward his own player, Rodriguez believes that his star superback deserves some national notoriety.

"I think what Avon has done this year as far as having production, leading the number one rushing offense in the country, and how he protects, he's just a complete football player. If you watch what he does off the ball, you'll see a complete player. I think he definitely deserves at least some Heisman mention, and definitely some All-America mention."


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