Seven of the coaches left Friday morning and went to various places throughout the country recruiting, so that was a good lick for us to get out. It's always pretty tough going in season, but that's what you have to do," head coach Bill Stewart explained. "We had a very productive time out from what I've been able to get from the coaches. I'm glad we got a chance to get out there. Recruiting is going ok, and I'm very pleased about that.
WVU's coaches visited several states, including Virginia and Pennsylvania, on Friday night and throughout the weekend. The NCAA allows a maximum of seven coaches on the road at a time.
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While Noel Devine garnered everyone's player of the game honors for his 207 yards on the ground, he also excelled in another area.
"Everyone said what a great night he had running, but he was five for five on his blocks. I can't tell you how much that impresses me, the staff and his teammates for a little guy of his size to step up and hit that SEC linebacker right in the chin," Stewart said. Devine has to use perfect technique to offset his lack of size, and although he's probably not going to decleat many foes, he did allow Patrick White time to get a couple of passes away.
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West Virginia apparently dodged a bullet in the form of Scooter Berry's knee injury, which forced him from the game in the first half. Noel Devine, who sat out a few plays after hitting the ground awkwardly following a third quarter tackle, is likewise o.k.
"We're in good shape, and we're in better shape now," Stewart confirmed. "Scooter Berry is fine. He had an MRI and has a clean bill of health. Patrick White is fine. Jarrett Brown was a little rusty early but in the second half of the game he kept working and was ready to go."
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WVU's modified game plan for Auburn included more "check with me" plays, where the offense comes to the line and sets in order to force the defense to show its hand. Auburn, of course, tried to counter by shifting again after WVU modified its play call, resulting in a game of cat and mouse that swung back and forth. The tactic was not a magic bullet for what ailed the WVU offense, but did help put the Tigers into a few untenable defensive positions.
While Auburn's unfamiliarity defending such tactics helped WVU, the Mountaineers might not get the same advantage with the remaining league foes on its schedule. Those teams have seen West Virginia's play checking system, and won't be surprised by its use. Instead, the league title will be decided the way it always has – by blocking and tackling.
"I call this league the black and blue league – I call it the bruise league - because we pound each other," Stewart said. "Last year's league champs, UConn and West Virginia, were 5-2. We've only won this thing with a record of 7-0 twice. This league is rough and tough. If you told me before yesterday that USF or Pitt would not win, I wouldn't have believed it. That goes to show you in college football, how the emotions of the young people play such a huge part in the game today."
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In preparing for Connecticut, Stewart knows that he has to battle the complacency that could arise from a look back to last year's 66-21 rout of the Huskies. He'll turn the tables by using WVU's own object lesson.
"I'm going to tell our team this [about UConn]. We beat a pretty good team that were co-champs with us last year, 66-21. We also beat a pretty good ECU team 48-7. If I remember correctly, in the second game of the season, we went to Greenville and got thumped 24-3. Our people better get that in their head. They celebrated Thursday night, Friday and they enjoyed it a little bit yesterday, but our Mountaineers better crank our engine. If you saw the fourth quarter of UConn, wow, I saw a defense get after people yesterday and that was impressive."
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In playing against former Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, WVU changed its offensive approach a bit. In addition to throwing the ball on crossing routes against man coverage, the Mountaineers also reined in Patrick White's carries on designed runs. Rhoads was expected to try to limit White, and West Virginia did not beat its offensive head against the wall in attempts to break him free. However, Stewart knows that White will be key to any hopes the Mountaineers have of winning down the stretch.
"We didn't run Pat [against Auburn]. We had to take pressure off of him, but I'll tell you that he has to be ready to run down the stretch. It's Big East football now."