ShareThis Page

West Virginia faces another ground challenge

| Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia will go up against the nation's fifth-leading rusher Saturday when it faces Louisville running back Bilal Powell.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior bruiser is shining under first-year coach Charlie Strong, averaging more than 134 yards per game — far better than his first three seasons combined.

"I had a chance to recruit him out of high school ... and Bilal played outstanding that night," Strong said. "I told him when I got here, 'I saw you play in high school, and I hope to see that same effort here as I saw in that game that night.'"

"He's played outstanding this whole season."

Powell has 1,207 yards and has had five games of more than 140 yards. He has been one of the main reasons Louisville has been rejuvenated: At 5-5 with two regular season games remaining, the Cardinals have its best shot at a bowl game since 2006.

"Everything they do is different. (Louisville's coaching staff) is trying to develop the run game, and pass second," West Virginia linebacker Anthony Leonard said. "They have a great running back and a great line, and that counts for a lot of what they're doing."

The Mountaineers are no stranger to playing against top running backs. Already this season, West Virginia has faced four backs in the top 40, including Connecticut running back Jordan Todman, second on that list.

Of those four, only LSU's Stevan Ridley was able to rush for more than his average. Only Ridley, Todman and Marshall's Martin Ward have rushed for more than 100 yards against the Mountaineers.

Overall, West Virginia is giving up 95 yards per game on the ground, seventh-best in the country.

"Our goal is to come and be better than we were last week. So, on the track we're on, we're not going to be tougher and more aggressive and execute better," Leonard said. "We're going against a great running back and a great line, and it's pretty much going to be bone on bone out there this week."

The Mountaineers believe Powell might be the toughest back their defense will see this season. Powell is bigger than Todman and slightly quicker than Ridley.

"They have a cycle of backs, about two or three, that can come in and run it," West Virginia safety Sidney Glover said. "But, we go into each game with the goal to slow down the run game. That's going to be our goal this week."

Louisville's Victor Anderson and Jeremy Wright compliment Powell, adding 200 yards on the ground apiece this season. Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart said he is unsure how Louisville's first-year coaching staff will go about facing West Virginia's 3-3-5 defense.

"They are so explosive," Stewart said. "These guys really make plays. They're big-time game breakers."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.