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Mountaineer Gameday: WVU linebacker Rigg plays with a ‘Jersey toughness’

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Doug Rigg had the finest game of his young college football career last month against LSU.

After just five tackles in the first three games - and that after only 14 in limited time last season as a true freshman - Rigg made nine against the Tigers team that would beat West Virginia and rise to No. 1 in the Associated Press poll.

Rigg also played most of the game for the Mountaineers with a fractured left wrist.

"I felt it happen in the beginning of the second quarter," the WVU strong side linebacker said. "I know exactly what play and what happened."

The Tigers ran the ball to Rigg's side and an offensive lineman went at Rigg's base and cut his legs from under him. Rigg put his arms out to ease his 6-foot-1, 235-pound frame to the turf.

"I just fell on it the wrong way," he said. "My hand was numb and it wasn't the same the rest of the game. I just thought I just knocked it, didn't think it was anything serious until I got it checked out and got an X-ray."

That was then when Rigg found out he had a fracture and would need surgery to insert a screw to help it heal. He's been in a cast ever since.

Rigg missed two games, but returned for last week's game at Syracuse. He'll play again Saturday as the 25th-ranked Mountaineers (5-2, 1-1) play at Rutgers (5-2, 2-1) at 3:30 p.m. (ABC regional telecast).

Rigg has a rubber cast to wear for the game, which keeps him from cleanly catching balls, but doesn't stop him from grabbing and tackling opponents. At the worst, it's an improvement over what he experienced against the Tigers. It was painful, though not prohibitive.

"I made a lot of tackles after that," said Rigg, who had five tackles in the second half. "I was running on adrenaline. Even though I was hurt, I really didn't know until after the game. Then it was, 'Wow.'  I couldn't even move my hand after the game. During the game, it hurt, but I was able to do something with it."

Rigg's injury created an opening for redshirt freshman Jewone Snow. He started at middle linebacker in the two games Rigg missed. Senior Najee Goode, who had been starting in the middle, moved over to Rigg's position on the strong side.

Snow made 16 tackles, shared a safety with defensive end Bruce Irvin and returned a fumble 83 yards to set up a touchdown.

Rigg came off the bench against the Orange and made one tackle, but he figures to play more in Saturday's homecoming. Rigg played high school football at New Jersey's Bergen Catholic, in Oradell, N.J., about an hour from Rutgers.

"I haven't played football in New Jersey since probably Thanksgiving of 2009," he said.

Rigg had 59 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and 7 1/2 sacks as a senior for Bergen Catholic and also ran the ball 75 times for 586 yards and six touchdowns. He had offers from Iowa, Wisconsin, Maryland, Louisville and Rutgers, but chose the Mountaineers.

He's WVU's only scholarship player from New Jersey, which used to be a significant source of talent for the Mountaineers. A.B. Brown, Avon Cobourne, Willie Drewrey, Anthony Green, Shawn Hackett, Kevin Landolt, Eugene Napoleon, Tommy Orr, Bryan Pukenas, Cooper Rego, Ken Sandor, Gary Stills, Matt Taffoni, Craig Taylor ... they're all from New Jersey.

Rigg said he knows more than 100 WVU students from New Jersey, but doesn't know why more of his Garden Staters haven't picked the Mountaineers for football.

"The best talent from New Jersey comes from three or four private schools - Bergen Catholic, Don Boscoe, places like that - but there are certain pipelines and certain schools they go to," Rigg said. "A lot of kids like to go to Boston College, Rutgers, Penn State, schools that are in the area. It's gotten to a point where a lot of guys never think about West Virginia."

WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said his staff, including cornerbacks coach David Lockwood and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, will return to recruiting New Jersey with more aggression. The Mountaineers have one New Jersey player committed to the 2012 recruiting class. Napoleon's son, Brandon, plays running back at St. Peter's Prep.

"We didn't have anybody in there before," Holgorsen said. "You run out of manpower at some point. You've only got nine guys to go out and recruit, so you run out of manpower. That's one area that got left out over the past few years for whatever reason."

Rigg encourages that direction. He said New Jersey players bring an intangible that suits the personality of WVU's program.

"I'd say we have a chip on our shoulders," he said. "Nobody really talks about Jersey football, but we can compete with anybody at any level of high school football. There are a lot of tough kids who hit you in the mouth. I think that's the difference. We may not all have speed, we may not all have size, but we carry ourselves with a confident attitude."

It's no wonder Rigg played, and played pretty well, with a broken wrist.

"I went home for a bit and talked to friends and they all said the same thing: 'There's that Jersey toughness,' " Rigg said. "I don't know if it's because I'm from Jersey, but the way I grew up, if you get hurt, you don't come out of the game unless you're hurting your team.

"I didn't feel like I was hurting the team so there was no way I was going to come out of the game."


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