Special Strategy

A couple of wrinkles kept West Virginia's ever-improving special teams on top against Boston College.

Special teams played a huge part in West Virginia's 24-14 win over Boston College on Saturday, but the Mountaineers' success on the field began earlier in the week, when WVU made a scheme change to their field goal block team.

"Our guys had a phenomenal performance. I'm very very proud of them," special teams coordinator Bill Stewart said. "We put a little wrinkle in this week. We saw something on film, so we brought one of our jumpers inside. We put James Davis and Anothony Mims in the middle, who are two of our best leapers. Then we got a great push from our defensive line, and bang bang. It's something we practice.

"I appreciate Rich letting me call timeout on the one before the half, because we thought they'd fake it. So we covered the fake, we brought our edge guys and we brought our jumpers and we got it."

The two blocked kicks, while being the most visible, weren't the only thing Stewart was pleased with on the day. Todd James, who has been working on knuckleball kickoffs in practice, executed two of them to perfection against the Eagles. One bounded off the leg of a BC returner and bounced free for a few moments, ruining the Eagles' return strategy.

"When you see Boston College's return guys run up and down the field against a team like Tech, you've got to be nuts to kick to them," Stewart explained. "The way we are covering, they don't know whether Todd is going to knuckleball kick it, sky kick it or deep kick it. And they don't know if Fazz is going to sky punt it or directional kick it.

"When you have that in your repetoire, it makes them have a lot to prepare for. It's all starting to fall into place. We weren't ready the second or third game of the season, but it's getting better. What we've done against Syracuse, Temple and Boston College is great."

Stewart also thought that Mark Fazzolari's big punt down to the Boston College six yard line in the third quarter was the turning point of the game.

"Fazz really stepped up there. He put Boston College down in a hole, and they couldn't recover from that."

Another real test awaits the Mountaineers in a week, as acknowledged special teams champion Virginia Tech provides the opposition. In past seasons, WVU faced the Tech juggernaut with trepidation, if not fear. And while the Mountianeers still have great respect for Tech's third squads, they also now know that they have the ability to line up and trade blows with them on an even basis.

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