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COLLEGE FOOTBALL ’94 / Season Previews : Nebraska-West Virginia Is a Start

From Associated Press

At some point in Sunday’s Kickoff Classic, West Virginia’s Matt Taffoni may have time to revel in the fact that he’s finally playing in the same pro stadium as his father.

But don’t count on it.

“I’m glad to be back in New Jersey,” Taffoni said Friday, two days before No. 24 West Virginia plays No. 4 Nebraska in Giants Stadium.

“This is my home state,” said Taffoni, of Medford, N.J. “But I just can’t wait for us to get out there and have a chance to beat this team here and get ourselves right back on track. All this being back home is nice, but we’re here to play the game. I just want to take it to (Nebraska).”

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That kind of attitude helped Taffoni’s dad, Joe Taffoni, be a success at West Virginia in the early 1960s and later with the New York Giants.

It also helped his 6-foot-1, 215-pound son see action as a true freshman and record 172 tackles in his first three years at WVU.

And Taffoni, the only returning starter among the team’s linebackers, was named co-captain last week along with fellow senior Tom Robsock, an offensive guard.

“I think Matt’s a great linebacker,” Robsock said. “He may not be 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, but I’ll tell you what: He’s one of the smarter ones you’ll see. He’s hard to get your hands on to block.

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“I’ve been playing with these guys for the past three weeks, and I know what they can do,” Robsock said. “Some of the guys we have on defense are impressive and Matt’s definitely one of them.”

Nebraska senior offensive lineman Zach Wiegart won’t be able to judge Taffoni’s skills for sure until Sunday. But he respects what he’s seen on film.

“I haven’t heard much or had much said to me about what kind of player he is,” Wiegart said. “But from the film I’ve watched he seems to have a lot of speed and he pursues the ball real well. ... He seems to always be around the ball. On the run support he really comes up quick.”

And that’s exactly what he’ll have to do against Nebraska, a team that can run amok.

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“We’ve got to stop the run, that’s the biggest thing,” Taffoni said. Because of Nebraska’s style, “a lot of pressure’s on the linebackers. You can’t sit back and wait on Nebraska because they’re big up front. You’ve got to attack them.”

Charging along with Taffoni will be fellow senior Puppy Wright, who has seen plenty of playing time in starting and reserve roles, and sophomore Bo Chatfield, who hasn’t.

“Bo Chatfield has to step up and have a huge game in order for us to win because the (middle) linebacker spot has to make a lot of big plays,” Taffoni said.

West Virginia coach Don Nehlen is certain that he can count on his stonewall, Taffoni.

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“Matt is solid as a rock, he’s extremely intelligent and he’s the leader of our defense,” Nehlen said.


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