1) Turnover Margin
2) Running game
3) Improved attitude and focus of the players
4) Comfortability with the system
5) Confidence level
"Turnover margin is obviously a big thing. We've been able to protect the ball on offense, and we've been opportunistic on defense," Rodriguez explained. "You see us now when we have timeouts and when the defense is the sidelines, and they are able to tell us what is going on. They have the confidence to make the changes that we need to make. Our players are more comfortable with the system, and even though the defense is in its first year, some of the fundamentals and drills are the same from last year."
"I think the game was clean," Rodriguez said of the low penalty rate. "The teams played hard and it was very physical, but I thought it was clean as far as infractions are concerned. There was a lot of running, so that tends to keep the penalties down."
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Rodriguez was disappointed in Notre Dame's loss to USC, which would have secured WVU's spot in the Gator Bowl.
"We thought it would be the Gator Bowl, but Notre Dame didn't help us."
Rodriguez comments set off a long speculative session on Sunday's conference call, with media, coach Rod, and Athletic Director Ed Pastilong joining the session. Nothing is concrete, but several points ended up being made.
* "We're still hoping for [a Gator Bid], but we'll probably have to wait another week or so," Pastilong said. "If it could be proved earlier that Notre Dame was going to be in the BCS, then the Gator bowl would go ahead and announce their bid to help with our ticket sales. But we don't know if that will happen. [Gator Bowl Executive Director Rick Catlett told me that they would take Notre Dame if available."
* The Continental Tire Bowl is still also in the picture if the Gator Bowl takes the Irish. That bowl, as well as the Insight Bowl, likely won't make their selections until the Notre Dame/Gator decisions are made.
*A UCLA win over Washington State would put USC in the Rose Bowl, clearing the way for the Irish in the BCS, which would cause the Gator to tip to WVU.
"I guess we're rooting for the Bruins now," Rodriguez joked.
* * *
Back on the game scene, Rodriguez said that the layoff between now and the bowl game is worrisome, but that the players would combat that with running and weightlifting sessions, as well as some individual workouts.
* * *
Rodriguez still hasn't had time to reflect on this year's accomplishments.
"It probably hasn't settled in yet. Were going right into recruiting today and this week, and then we'll have the bowl and preparations. It will probably settle in after recruiting in February. That's when we'll have the chance to reflect on the season a little bit."
* * *
Opposing defense have clamped down on Rasheed Marshall's running, but that has opened up other aspects of the running game.
"I think since they saw the Miami game, teams are making sure they spy Rasheed, and that opens up the run game inside and forces some one on one on the perimeter," Rodriguez noted. "We have to take advantage of that.
"The reverses have helped too, because Rasheed can block that guy, or at least get run over slowly by him, and that takes another defender out of the play."
* * *
"I don't know if they were just cold or what. They were punting pretty well in practice, but maybe the conditions had something to do with it too. We were flat out embarrassing punting the ball, and we were lucky it didn't cost us the game. They just had a bad day -- we know they are better than that.
On the plus side, WVU made all of their place kicks, including a tough boot by James into the swirling winds.