On the day when West Virginia University honored the members of the 1988 undefeated regular season Mountaineer football team, the current squad of WVU players defeated an extremely talented but unlucky Rutgers team, 24-17.
Not even a turnover-free game or an injury to the Mountaineer quarterback Patrick White could change Rutgers’ fortunes. In a scene reminiscent of their 2005 chilly, triple-overtime game in Morgantown, with an injured White out of the contest, backup quarterback Jarrett Brown once again played a part in beating the Scarlet Knights with his legs and his arm.
One only has to look at the talent on this Scarlet Knights’ team to wonder why Greg Schiano’s team has only won a single game. The loss of premier running back Ray Rice to graduation has clearly left the team with some big holes to fill, but Rice’s departure didn’t leave the Knights’ cupboard completely empty.
They have an excellent receiving corps, led by standout Kenny Britt. Yet it was the absence of an effective running game that cost Rutgers the ballgame.
Despite the fact Coach Schiano’s troops have only been victorious in one game this season and the man has never beaten the Mountaineers, this game gave me some real cause for concern! However, the Mountaineers took care of business and sent them back to New Jersey with another blemish on their record and their first conference loss.
It was readily apparent that West Virginia’s offensive coordinator, Jeff Mullen, actually means business about making the passing game as potent as the WVU running game. They finally used 6-foot-8 receiver Wes Lyons for something other than a downfield blocker.
Lyons caught a career-high four passes. Pat White also threw a touchdown pass to our tight end, true freshman Tyler Urban. It was the first WVU touchdown reception by a tight end since 2005.
The Mountaineer offense presented a balanced attack. They rolled up 333 yards of offense, split almost evenly between passing and rushing. This Rutgers team was stacking the box and selling out to stop West Virginia’s running game. Critically important was also the fact that neither team committed any turnovers!
The kickoff and punt return coverage by the West Virginia special teams was much improved from last week. In addition, it was great to finally see the Mountaineers successfully fake a punt.
Reed Williams only played two games this season after returning from off-season surgery on his shoulder. However, his return to this Mountaineer squad was the spark that ignited their defense.
But it would appear that his shoulder, still not fully healed, will mean that the young man’s season is over. Yet in this game, it was obvious that the linebackers and each man in the Mountaineer defense stepped up their game to make-up for Williams’ absence.
Game Ball Goes To:
Jock Sanders: Made a great pass reception and refused to be stopped until he clawed and scratched his way into the end zone; great catch; terrific run, and phenomenal effort!
Anthony Leonard: Forced into action by the injuries to linebacker Reed Williams, the backup made his first start, played a great game, and led the team with nine tackles.
Zac Cooper: His 18-yard run on a fake punt allowed the Mountaineers to keep their offensive possession alive and led to their winning touchdown.
Scooter Berry: The defensive end’s pass breakup with just over a minute to go in the game guaranteed the victory for the Mountaineers.
If this well-coached Rutgers squad can regroup and gain their winning edge, they still have a chance to make some noise in the Big East Conference. At the very least, I would be surprised if Greg Schiano’s team doesn’t spoil the fortunes of the conference foes they have left to play.
The Mountaineers now turn their attention to their next game. According to the initial reports, quarterback Pat White only suffered a slight concussion and Coach Bill Stewart would not let him return to the game. White should be healthy and available for next Saturday’s game, when the Syracuse Orangemen come to town.