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Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Three keys: Champs Sports Bowl


Here are three keys for West Virginia in Tuesday's Champs Sports Bowl showdown against NC State:

1. Pressure Russell Wilson: Well, sure, you always want to get pressure on the opposing quarterback. But that's an even more important goal against Wilson, who is responsible for so much of what the Wolfpack does offensively. West Virginia will be playing without top cornerback Brandon Hogan, so if Wilson has time to scan the field, he could pick on replacement Pat Miller. Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 scheme has been great at disguising coverages and confusing quarterbacks with blitzes from varying angles. Wilson has been more prone to mistakes this year than previous seasons, throwing eight interceptions in NC State's four losses. When the Mountaineers get near him, though, they can't let him break contain or he can burn them with his running ability.

2. Let it fly: This is the final game at West Virginia for offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen, who will be replaced next week by Dana Holgorsen. It will also be the last game for Bill Stewart before his lame-duck year begins. So what's there to lose? The Mountaineers should be aggressive on offense, and go for whatever Mullen has left in the playbook. NC State is solid against the run, and Noel Devine probably still won't be his usual explosive self. But quarterback Geno Smith has been terrific during the current four-game winning streak, throwing eight touchdown passes and just one interception. Don't be afraid to put the game in his hands.

3. Limit turnovers: Another no-brainer for any team, but this is one stat that usually tells the tale for the Mountaineers. They committed eight in their three losses this season compared to 15 in their nine wins. Ball-carriers like Ryan Clarke have had trouble with costly fumbles in big games. If West Virginia plays a clean game against NC State, it should have an excellent chance to win its third bowl game under Stewart.