Facing A Challenge

Most observers have counted Syracuse as an easy win on the schedule, owing to the struggles the Orange have gone through during the past several years. With a new head coach in Doug Marrone, Syracuse hopes to start a new era of success, but the problems facing any coaching transition figured to have it again mired at the bottom of the conference.

However, the Orange have had a decent beginning to their season at 2-3, and if they aren't ready to challenge for the league title just yet, have certainly been competitive.

Syracuse can credit a lot of their early success on the offensive duo of quarterback Greg Paulus and wide receiver Mike Williams. That passing combination will have to be confronted by WVU cornerback Keith Tandy, who has seen his fair share of talented wide receivers during his time at West Virginia. In his first start, Tandy faced off against North Carolina star receiver Hakeem Nicks in the 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl, and he's excited to face another talented pass catcher.

"[Williams] will definitely be the best receiver we have faced this year," admitted Tandy. "He will probably be the best one that we face all year. We have our work cut out for us but we have a lot of different things we will try to throw his way."

Williams brings multifaceted talent to the Orange offense. Whereas some receivers specialize in just one aspect of the game, Williams performs well in all phases. That has caused the Mountaineer defense some extra preparation time as it tries to figure out the best way to contain the talented wideout.

"He does a lot of things well," Tandy said of Williams. "He can go up and get the ball out of the air. He runs pretty good routes. He's a pretty big guy so it will be hard to push him around. He does a lot of things."

Though the Mountaineers have been able to slow opponents' rushing games, pass defense has been spotty at times. Tandy admits that the defense has been focusing on perfecting their pass defense so that they can prepare accordingly for Williams and the rest of the Orange attack.

"We've thrown in a couple of wrinkles," said Tandy. "We're just getting back to our fundamentals. At first, we didn't try as much in the passing game, we just relaxed a little bit. We're getting back to our fundamentals."

Tandy clearing isn't going to give away any secrets, but it figures that West Virginia will have to mix up its defensive looks in order to keep Williams out of his comfort zone. Pressure on the quarterback, is always a defensive back's best friend, and that too, will be a point of emphasis during preparations this week.

In that regard, the defense is also preparing for e other half of the passing tandem, Paulus. The former Duke point guard has been thrust back into football after not playing the game for four years as an undergraduate, and has done well despite tossing nine interceptions against eight touchdown passes.

"He hasn't played football in four years so he's going to make some mistakes," said Tandy. "He keeps a lot of plays alive and he creates a lot of plays. He takes chances so that's why he has some interceptions."

Tandy, who played quarterback and point guard in high school, recognizes that there is a correlation between the two.

"You have to make quick decisions when you're a point guard," said Tandy. "You have to see the whole court just like [as a quarterback] you have to see the whole field."

Only time will tell if Syracuse's one-two offensive punch will prove to be too much for the Mountaineer defense, but it's a challenge that WVU needs to face, and conquer, as it enters the Big East season.


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