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West Virginia tailback Steve Slaton (10) picks up a block from fullback Owen Schmitt (right) to make a running lane against Western Michigan.

“I don’t even care about that,” coach Rich Rodriguez said Tuesday afternoon when told that West Virginia (1-0) is favored by 23 1/2 points against Marshall (0-1) for Saturday’s Friends of Coal Bowl at Huntington.

“We know we will get Marshall’s best game. We have to be prepared to play our best game. When you go on the road for the first time, it is a new experience.”

Rodriguez touched on numerous topics during his 30-minute weekly press conference at the Milan Puskar Center.

He reiterated that he believes the Thundering Herd will play as hard as it has ever played against the No. 3-ranked Mountaineers “because of the intensity and rivalry and the fact that we are going down there for the first time in many, many years.”

The game is a 38,000-plus sellout.

“I am sure their coaches and players hear from their fans about our game, just as we hear about it from our fans in their area,” Rodriguez continued. “They will play hard and with great passion.

“They have athletes, guys that can give us problems. We can’t just go out there and screw around. That’s obvious.”

In defeating Marshall 31-3 last Saturday, Miami intercepted four passes while giving up just only 13 first downs and 234 yards.

“It was more (a case of) Miami making plays,” the Mountaineer mentor suggested. “I have always been impressed with (Marshall quarterback Bernie) Morris. He has a strong arm.

“They have got as good a skill group as anyone. Some of the wideouts are spectacular, and the tight end is impressive. I think the difference for them was the Miami defensive line. They have a couple first-round (NFL) draft picks rushing the passer.”

Rodriguez said MU’s defense is a little different with new coordinator Steve Dunlap, a WVU alumnus and former defensive coach for the Mountaineers.

“He is putting his stamp on the defense,” he explained. “I have watched (tapes of) two games, and it looks similar with some things and different with others. They are doing some different things in the secondary.”

Rodriguez is familiar with what Dunlap did while here and also with what he did at Syracuse and then at North Carolina State.

“Going into this game, you don’t know what his plan of attack will be,” he said. “You have an idea, and you have to prepare for some things. But you can’t plan for everything. You have to adapt.”

Rodriguez said linebacker Bobby Hathaway (broken hand) might be able to play Saturday. He sat out the season-opening 62-24 win over Western Michigan.

Offensive guard Eric Rodemoyer probably will start against Marshall, according to the coach, after he split time with Derek Hayes in the first game. Eric Jobe performed better as No. 2 center than he had in practice.

Rodriguez said the plan is to redshirt two true freshman offensive linemen, Donny Barclay and Gino Gradkowski. Neither saw action last Saturday.

The veteran coach revealed that he punished the entire team for a couple players’ indiscretions last year and also this year, but did not make either event public. He said it isn’t a novel idea in college football.

WVU has enjoyed opening-drive success over the past two years because it scripts as many as 20 plays for the first quarter and a half, Rodriguez said. But if the opponent comes out with “something crazy,” he noted, “we have to adjust and call different plays.”

The Mountaineers are in fairly good health for the game.

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