Preview: Rutgers-West Virginia

Rutgers (1-3) bounced back from a very disappointing start to post its first victory of the season with a resounding 38-0 victory over Morgan State Sept. 27. However, the Scarlet Knights have yet to beat a team in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A), and their first Big East game is at a place where they have never won in 15 tries. Let's take a look at Rutgers-West Virginia.


The game is scheduled for noon Eastern Time at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown. SNY will carry the game as part of its Big East Network package, and the contest will appear on ESPN GamePlan out of market. also will carry the live broadcast. Mike Gleason is scheduled to handle play-by-play duties, John Congemi will be the color analyst, and Quint Kessenich is listed as the sideline reporter.


The Scarlet Knights' early-season disappointment is nothing compared to West Virginia (2-2), who had designs on a national championship before taking it on the chin in consecutive weeks at East Carolina and Colorado in September. The Mountaineers got back in the win column with a 27-3 defeat of Marshall last week and rolled up 335 yards rushing in that victory.

The 17-14 loss to Colorado Sept. 18 dropped the Mountaineers from national rankings after 46 consecutive weeks in the top 25. First-year head coach Bill Stewart has come under some fire early in his tenure after leading the Mountaineers to a Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma last season in his debut.


West Virginia was one of the pioneers of the spread offense, and the scheme continues under Stewart. Pat White is the field general for the Mountaineers, and he is the defending Big East offensive player of the year. White was held in check in consecutive losses to East Carolina and Colorado, but he is still one of the most dangerous players in college football and should finish his career as the NCAA's all-time leading rushing quarterback.

The Mountaineers dominated Rutgers last year, 31-3, as White accounted for 300 yards of total offense. The southpaw injured the thumb on his throwing hand versus Marshall last week, but reports are that he will be ready to go for this game. White has completed 73.3 percent of his passes this season and is averaging 6.3 yards per rush. He has also thrown seven touchdowns to just one interception, almost the inverse of Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel's two touchdowns to seven picks.

If White is unable to play against Rutgers, the Mountaineers will throw backup Jarrett Brown into the mix. Rutgers fans might remember Brown from the 2006 season when he started in place of an injured White and led the Mountaineers to a 41-39 triple-overtime victory that denied RU a chance for the Big East title and a BCS bowl berth. He passed for 244 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 73 yards and a TD in that game.

Don't forget about Noel Devine, an elusive back who gives opposing defenses nightmares. He averages 6.5 yards per carry and leads the team with 399 rushing yards this year.


WVU's Achilles' heel earlier this season was its inability to halt the opposing offense, as ECU and Colorado managed a combined 752 yards and 41 points versus the Mountaineers. WVU, which runs a 3-3-5 hybrid, is allowing 327.2 total yards against per game, but the Mountaineers are 26th in the nation in scoring defense with just 16.3 points per game against.

West Virginia has not allowed a touchdown in the last seven quarters since yielding a pair of TDs to Colorado in the first quarter on Sept. 18. WVU limited Marshall to just 158 yards of total offense last week and forced the Thundering Herd into three turnovers.


Place-kicker/punter Pat McAfee seems like he has been in Morgantown for a decade, and he is once again among the best kickers in the nation. His rugby-style punting has been effective this season, as he is fourth in the nation with a 45.8 yards per game average. McAfee should become West Virginia's all-time leading kick scorer in this game with his first points. He has hit 67 consecutive extra points and is 5-for-6 on field goals this year.


West Virginia has owned the head-to-head series with Rutgers, especially in Morgantown. The Mountaineers are 15-0 against RU at Milan Puskar Stadium and 29-4-2 overall versus Rutgers, including 15-2 in Big East play. The teams have played every year since 1980.

Last year WVU dominating RU 31-3 at Rutgers Stadium. The year before, Rutgers had a chance to win the Big East title outright but fell in Morgantown 41-39 in triple overtime. The Mountaineers went on to beat Georgia Tech 38-35 in the Gator Bowl while the Scarlet Knights topped Kansas State 37-10 in the Texas Bowl.


Rutgers finally forced turnovers in the win over Morgan State last week, but the Scarlet Knights are tied with Virginia as the 113th team in the FBS out of 119 in turnover margin. . . . Rutgers has not beat West Virginia since a 17-12 victory in 1994. . . . RU is last in the Big East in several statistical categories. The Scarlet Knights bring up the rear in passing efficiency, rushing offense, scoring offense, turnovers lost and turnover margin. Conversely, the Knights lead the conference in pass defense.

West Virginia is 14-2 when Pat White rushes for at least 100 yards. The senior has compiled an average of 245.5 yards per game over his last 10 contests. . . . Head coach Bill Stewart has been in Morgantown since 2000, serving as an assistant until taking over for departing head coach Rich Rodriguez at the end of last season . . . Eleven WVU players have made their first career start this season.


According to the National Weather Service, Saturday should be great football weather. The forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with slight winds and temperatures in the mid 60s.

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