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Is this the year RU ends skid?

October 28, 2011

MORGANTOWN - Is this the year Rutgers finally ends its lengthy losing streak against West Virginia?

The Mountaineers (5-2, 1-1 Big East) will be seeking their 17th victory in a row against the Scarlet Knights (5-2, 2-1 Big East) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Piscataway, N.J.

ABC will televise the action. WVU is a 7-point favorite.

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Greg Schiano, Rutgers' veteran head coach, is certain to have his players motivated. He's 0-10 against West Virginia all-time.

Dana Holgorsen, the Mountaineers' head coach, hopes his team will bounce back with vengeance after last week's 49-23 upset loss at Syracuse.

That embarrassing thrashing dropped the Mountaineers from 11th all the way to 25th in The Associated Press poll this week.

"We were outcoached and outplayed," Holgorsen said. He was at a loss to understand his players' lack of intensity.

Rutgers leads the nation with 15 interceptions and also has 24 quarterback sacks for 156 lost yards. WVU's Geno Smith is well aware of these impressive stats.

"We have things we can do to combat the blitz," Smith said this week. "We have good schemes. But we obviously didn't do a good job with that last Friday night.

"But we learned from that. So we are going to move forward.The thing we have to do is focus in and take every little detail that the coaches give us on the field."

He feels he knows the game well enough to make adjustments when needed. "We work on these everyday in practice.

"We know that if we don't do these things, what can happen to our offense," Smith added. "If we don't come out with intensity, we know we could get beat."

Smith defends his offensive line against some fans' criticism. He believes in the players who help protect him against blitzing.

West Virginia is averaging 489.9 yards and 38.3 points per game, while Rutgers 327.9 yards and 28.0 points.

Defensively, the Mountaineers are allowing an average of 321.9 yards and 25.4 points per game.

The Scarlet Knights are giving up 306.3 yards and 16.0 points.

Rutgers owns 18 turnovers while WVU shows just nine - six interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

Smith ranks fifth nationally in passing yards per game with 356.71 after seven games and sixth in total offense with 350.0 yards.

He ranks first in the Big East in both categories.

Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin remain two of the country's finest wide receivers.

But Rutgers has the Big East's top receiver in Mohamed Sanu. He has 65 receptions for 683 yards and six touchdowns.

The Scarlet Knights' freshman quarterback, Gary Nova, has completed 73 of 132 passes for 890 yards and seven TDs in six games. He has been intercepted five times.

Rutgers' two losses came by just two points each, both on the road at North Carolina and Louisville.

Jeff Casteel, WVU's defensive coordinator, said "They have played well in several games. They're really physical on defense and they do what they need to do, offensively.

"They take care of the football. They're throwing the ball well and protecting the quarterback. And they do a great job on special teams."

Casteel hopes his defensive unit can come up with some turnovers - something they didn't do at Syracuse.

WVU returns home next Saturday for a game against Louisville.



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