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Bowling Green's Ruggiero returns to West Virginia

MORGANTOWN - Bowling Green offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero returns to West Virginia for Saturday's game against No. 22 WVU after working two seasons in his past as the Glenville State coach.

The 3:30 p.m. game at Mountaineer Field will be televised by ROOT Sports.

Ruggiero succeeded Rich Rodriguez at GSC in 1997 and led the Pioneers to a 9-3 record and a 6-1 mark to win the West Virginia Conference championship.

Glenville made the Division II playoffs, but lost to New Haven (Conn.) 47-7 in the first round.

A year later, the Pioneers were 6-5 and 4-3 in the conference and Ruggiero later left for Division I-AA William & Mary.

Ruggiero, who declined an interview request this week, was reassigned from his coaching position in 1999 and later resigned following NCAA and conference sanctions. Former WVU offensive line coach Rick Trickett followed Ruggiero as the Pioneers' coach and was 5-6 in 1999, his only season at the school.

Mountaineers defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel was at Shepherd from 1988-99 and the defensive coordinator the final nine years. The Rams were 1-1 against Ruggiero with a 44-14 loss in 1997 and a 36-6 win in 1998.

"All those years run together," Casteel said. "They whipped us once, but they were always pretty good."

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WVU QUARTERBACK Geno Smith threw 65 passes last week against LSU and wasn't sacked. Since 1990, he's the second Mountaineers player to attempt 40 passes without being sacked.

Marc Bulger was 32-for-48 for 346 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions in a 28-21 loss at Miami (Fla.) in 1999.

"People don't understand what's involved in pass protection," offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said, "There are so many things. Geno got hit three times he shouldn't have. He got hit pretty hard, but he got rid of the ball. Those could have very easily been sacks, but he's good enough to get rid of the ball.

"When they blitzed, our receivers ran hot routes so he could get rid of the ball. And the backs blocked really well. Obviously, the line did a good job, but a lot more goes into pass protection than just the offensive line."

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THE MOUNTAINEERS, who were the last team to get a sack last season, again have the fewest sacks in the country. WVU, UAB, Indiana, Minnesota and San Jose State are the only other teams with just one.

"I don't think we've been physical enough or reckless enough," Casteel said. "Is it young kids? I don't know. Those are not excuses, though. We want to play at a high level."

Teams have schemed against WVU and thrown a bunch of quick and screen passes, but WVU (3-1) still hasn't met its pass-rush expectations.

Defensive end Bruce Irvin had WVU's only sack and that was in the season-opener against Marshall. He's been dealing with the expected extra attention after 14 sacks last season. The health and effectiveness of defensive tackle Julian Miller, who had nine sacks each of the last two seasons, has been a factor, too.

"I don't know what's going on," Holgorsen said. "We've got to keep working at it. Whatever the reasons are, they've got to overcome them. If there's frustration or where the effort level isn't where it needs to be, then we need to figure out how to get the effort.

"It's something we've talked about. It has nothing to do with coaching. It's the same guys, the same scheme, same everything, same kids, but that's just how it is.

"Maybe people are keying on them more or maybe the schemes are built in to the point they can't get to the ball, but regardless what the excuses are, our job is to put them in the best position to be successful. Their job as players is to work hard and be ready to play the game and give it everything they've got.

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ONE POSSIBLE fix is the addition of speedy linebacker Josh Francis, who unseated Casey Vance and got the start against LSU.

Francis, a 2010 junior college All-American who had 13 sacks in two seasons at Lackawanna (Pa.), is playing the weakside spot.

J.T. Thomas was an All-Big East first team pick there in 2010 with 73 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and 21/2 sacks.

Casteel said Francis, who had four tackles, played well and is part of a group still finding its way.

"We're not obviously where we were with those kids we had last year," Casteel said.

"Those kids were starters and really the core of a group that had been together three years.

"We just have to execute some things better. We'll go out and do something really well for two series and then the next series forget what happened.

"I think kids always have to become a little more consistent."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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