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Rodriguez searching for answers

| Sunday, Nov. 14, 2004

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's football team has pulled a Humpty Dumpty, leaving Rich Rodriguez to try to pull together the pieces.

It doesn't help the Mountaineers head coach that the home folks are not taking the fall very well.

"We're 8-2 and none of the eight games we've won are any good to a lot of folks," Rodriguez lamented Saturday, after Boston College had hung loss No. 2 on the Mountaineers, by a 36-17 score.

Rodriguez knows the natives are restless because of the sweet nothings he heard coming from the stands.

"I don't like running off the field at halftime and (having) people cussing at you and calling you an idiot," said the WVU coach, whose team trailed 24-7 at intermission. "You try to block it out, but you hear it. I've got thick skin. I can take it. But these guys, it's tough.

"They came in here to try to build a program and build on the positives and you've got recruits coming to the game and you're not playing well and your home people are booing you. It's not all of them, but there's enough of them that recruits hear it. That don't help. It don't help."

It was hard to tell whether Rodriguez was more crushed by the loss, one that has snatched control of the Big East Conference title chase from the hands of the Mountaineers, or by the venom from the fans in Mountaineer Field.

The problem, in the mind of Rodriguez, is a matter of expectations. West Virginia was supposed to sweep through a Big East weakened by the departures of Miami and Virginia Tech. While doing that, West Virginia was supposed to put itself into contention for a national title.

The national title hopes died for all intents and purposes with a 19-13 loss at Virginia Tech Oct. 2. But the Big East championship and a BCS bowl berth, in either the Sugar or Fiesta, seemed very attainable.

Now, even that is a reach. West Virginia is 8-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big East with a Thanksgiving night game at Pitt remaining. Boston College (7-2, 3-1) has conference games at Temple and at home with Syracuse. Win both those, and if WVU beats Pitt, the Eagles and Mountaineers would be tied atop the Big East final standings, each at 5-1. But Boston College would get the top bowl bid based on this head-to-head win.

"Everybody is pretty upset that we didn't produce today," safety Mike Lorello said. "We had our destiny in our hands. It's not any more."

Boston College coach Tom O' Brien was reluctant to embrace the favorite's role his team now has in the Big East, what with remaining games against conference weakling Temple and a Syracuse team that managed to lose to Temple yesterday.

"I don't know if we're in the driver's seat," O'Brien said. "We can't go swallowing the Kool-aid they're going to be fed this week about how good they are. We haven't accomplished anything."

Boston College did accomplish its first win at WVU since 1990. West Virginia lost despite an edge of nearly two to one in total yardage (462-243) and the presence of two 100-yard rushers on the Mountaineers stat sheet (running back Kay-Jay Harris with 112 and quarterback Rasheed Marshall with 100). Those things couldn't counterbalance special-teams dominance by Boston College, which scored two touchdowns punt returns.

And a season of anticipated greatness now has an upside of pretty good; perhaps a co-championship.

"That's not bad," Rodriguez said, although he didn't sound convinced.

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