7:30 PM ET, November 8, 2007
MILAN PUSKAR STADIUM, MORGANTOWN, WV
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez doesn't put much stock in destiny.
Rodriguez has seen the movie "Evan Almighty" twice, including during the team's most recent road trip when the comedy about a congressman recruited by God to build an ark was the in-flight movie.
"In the movie they kept saying it was all about destiny," Rodriguez said. "I'm not a believer in being destined to win a championship.
No. 6 West Virginia (7-1, 2-1) controls its own destiny in the Big East and can win the conference and a Bowl Championship Series berth by winning its final four games, starting Thursday night at home against Louisville (5-4, 2-2).
West Virginia has won three straight since a loss at South Florida.
"Our players know determination wins championships, and we have a chance to control that play by play," Rodriguez said. "Our guys have taken that approach since that loss."
Since the USF loss, South Florida, Rutgers and Cincinnati have lost a combined eight games to leave the Mountaineers behind only Connecticut in the Big East. The Mountaineers play the Huskies in Morgantown in two weeks. West Virginia also travels to Cincinnati next week and finishes the regular season at home against Pittsburgh on Dec. 1.
Thursday's game doesn't have the build up of last season, when both teams were ranked in the top 10 and undefeated heading into a Thursday night matchup in Louisville.
Determination got West Virginia only so far against the Cardinals in that one. Six fumbles, blown pass coverages and special teams gaffes contributed to Louisville's 44-34 win and ended the Mountaineers' 14-game winning streak.
West Virginia has one of the top turnover margins in the country this season and its improved defense is coming off its best showing of the season in a 31-3 win at Rutgers.
Louisville, despite its struggles this season, could present a much tougher test for the Mountaineers. The Cardinals have scored 44 points in each of the past two games against West Virginia, with Brian Brohm averaging 315 yards passing yards.
Brohm is already at 3,229 yards this season with 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
"That man puts the ball on the money," West Virginia linebacker Mortty Ivy said. "He is able to audible out there and do some things other quarterbacks can't do. He puts the ball in tight spaces where most defenders can't get to the ball."
West Virginia's junior backfield duo of quarterback Pat White and Steve Slaton has made a similar impression on Louisville first-year coach Steve Kragthorpe.
Slaton is headed toward his third straight 1,000-yard season and White ran for 156 yards and threw for 144 against Rutgers.
"People talk about yards after contact," Kragthorpe said. "With these guys, they ought to talk about yards after juke.
"They've done a great job of not just breaking tackles but creating vapor tackles. There are tacklers there, and they're just swinging at air."
The Cardinals were a top 10 earlier this season, but their poor defense and sloppy play has made them one of the bigger disappointments in the country.
Still, a strong finish and lots of help could still get them back to the BCS for a second straight season.
The way things have gone this season in the Big East, anything seems possible.
"Hopefully they have a sad bus ride or plane flight home," Slaton said.
Top 25 Overview
At the beginning of the season, this game was circled on the calendar as the one to decide the Big East. Oh, how things have changed. While West Virginia controls its destiny in the conference, Louisville needs to win out and get some help. The game should be entertaining on the offensive side of the ball as both teams are ranked in the top 20 in scoring.
|Avg Points Allowed||28.4||16.7|