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Nimmo- Orangemen rush end has to be seen to be believed

by Dan Shrensky

CORRESPONDENT

MORGANTOWN -- The story to Dwight Freeney isn't all there in black and white, says West Virginia tackle Lance Nimmo.

Freeney, Syracuse's senior sack machine, has to be seen to be appreciated.

"A lot of players get hyped up and they're not what they're cracked up to be. But on film, he's more impressive than he is in the media. He's an awesome player to have the opportunity to play against," Nimmo said.

Nimmo, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound junior who reckons he will line up against Freeney, a 6-2, 250-pound end, "85 percent of the time" when the Orangemen and Mountaineers meet Saturday, missed out on a confrontation last year.

Freeney suffered a mysterious ailment that was eventually, after internal bleeding and a hospital stay, diagnosed as a lacerated spleen. He missed four games last year, including Syracuse's win over WVU in Morgantown, but is back in top form this season.

The Lombardi Award semifinalist leads the nation with 14.5 sacks and needs one sack to eclipse the NCAA mark of 15 (they have kept sack marks for just two seasons) set by North Carolina's Julius Peppers last year.

He needs three more to pass Canute Curtis (16) and Corey Moore (17) to become the Big East's single-season leader. A combination of speed and power, Freeney also leads the conference in tackles for loss and has forced five fumbles on the season.

Despite having missed substantial playing time his first three seasons, Freeney ranks second in career sacks at Syracuse with 31. Tim Green had 45.5.

No wonder Nimmo found it hard to compare Freeney with another opponent.

"This guy's in a league of his own. His first step and get-off, it's incomparable. I haven't seen anything like this since my redshirt freshman year and Corey Moore," he said.

Opponents have targeted Freeney for double- and triple-teams all season but Nimmo says the Mountaineers can't afford to devote too much attention to him and abandon their strategy.

"It forces you not really to prepare for him but to hone in on what you're good at and what you're bad at and get your technique down," he said. "If you want to have a shot against a player like this, to be successful against him, it's going to be your technique that's going to save you. You're not going to get stronger between now and Saturday so it's going to be taking the coaching and technique to have a shot at blocking him."

The Mountaineer line is coming off one of its best performances ever, leading the way to 446 yards rushing and seven touchdowns in the Rutgers rout. WVU finished with 627 total yards and led 59-0 at halftime.

The game boosted confidence in the entire team, but particularly in the offensive line.

"It finally gave us a look at what blocking it's going to take for the big runs to occur -- the 40- and 50-yard runs," Nimmo said.

"Before, we'd consistently give (tailback) Avon (Cobourne) 8 or 9-yard runs but we couldn't get him out the gate. And finally we put together some blocks downfield and the line stayed on some blocks.

"It really puts into perspective what this offense is capable of."

Despite Nimmo's optimism, WVU also has reason to worry. Its top two left guards -- Ken Sandor (knee) and Jason Brooks (ankle) -- were injured against Rutgers and are questionable of playing against the Orangemen.

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