Contact On Tap

On Thursday night the West Virginia Mountaineers will host the Auburn Tigers at home for the ESPN Thursday night game, and both teams will enter the game in similar situations.

Both teams are lead by their defenses, and both teams have had their struggles on offense. Auburn recently fired offensive coordinator Tony Franklin just seven games into his tenure after he tried to institute a spread offense, which showed great early returns in Auburn's bowl game but has sputtered since.

Mountaineer head coach Bill Stewart said that his team is excited to play Auburn, especially on a Thursday night. Given the nature of the two defenses, he expects the game to be very physical.

"I wouldn't be shocked if this was a low scoring game. They are a hard-hitting team on defense," Stewart said. "Their defense is very fast and physical and they are really going to be a challenge for our offense."

Auburn enters the contest having lost its last two games to Vanderbilt and Arkansas. The Tigers sit at 4-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. While the offense has fought to find its footing, the defense is a typical Tiger tale. Auburn shut out Louisiana Monroe and yielded a total of just 28 points to SEC foes Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. On the season, the Tigers are giving up an average of just 13.1 points per game. .

The good news for Stewart and the Mountaineers is that quarterback Pat White will be in uniform and at full strength for the game Thursday night. A week ago the Mountaineer offense struggled with White on the sidelines as he recovered from a concussion suffered a week earlier against Rutgers. The Mountaineer offense, led by a banged-up Jarrett Brown, threw for just 52 yards and had only 268 total yards against Syracuse. If it weren't for a 92-yard touchdown run by Noel Devine late in the game, those numbers would have been anemic. Whether West Virginia is able to get its offense untracked against the best defense it has played to date remains to be seen.

Auburn enters the game with a struggling offense as well. They have the ability to win a football game solely with defense as it shoed in its 3-2 victory over Mississippi State. The Tigers also play in the difficult SEC, where it seems that every team has a good defense and each week is a struggle.

"This is a team that just hasn't gelled yet this season but when they have played well they have really played well," Stewart said. "And no matter how they have played this season, this is still Auburn and they can beat anybody,"

Despite their struggles on offense, the Mountaineers are still 2-0 in the Big East and 4-2 overall and a win against Auburn on Thursday night could do a lot for this team going forward in the season. Offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen said last week that the offense needs to be more aggressive and execute better. He was quick to include the play calling, which has come under fire in recent weeks.

This could be the week that the Mountaineers break out of their offensive slump. They are playing at home on a Thursday night, which means that the team should come out with a lot of energy. White is rested and playing at full strength for the first time in a couple weeks and word is that the Mountaineers are going to put in a few more wrinkles in the offense. The sense around the team is one of having something to prove, and even against a very talented and aggressive Tiger offense, this could be the week in which WVU begins make its mark offensively.


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