Tough Effort

While many players hope to get just one or two touches during the course of an offensive series, West Virginia sophomore fullback Ryan Clarke more than exceed that modest wish list in West Virginia's victory over Maryland last Saturday.

Ryan Clarke carried the ball eight consecutive times in the fourth quarter on a lung-busting, leg-searing effort that resulted in a field goal to sew up the game against the Terps.

After holding Maryland scoreless for the first half, the Mountaineers slipped up in the second half of the game and let the visitors get within eleven points in the fourth quarter. West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart then called for a unique offensive series in which Clarke was the primary focus. It's not as if Clarke is a bad choice to carry the ball, but with WVU's myriad offensive weapons, it was unusual for one player to dominate the action.

"Physically, it was tiring," said Clarke. "It didn't matter. I pushed through it because my teammates needed me so it really didn't bother me. I liked my team depending on me. I'm going to carry the weight that I need to for my teammates just as I know they would for me."

Clarke certainly succeeded in the physically challenging task. After getting the ball at the Terrapin's 37-yard line, the fullback marched the ball down to the six before West Virginia had to settle for a field goal from sophomore kicker Tyler Bitancurt. An untimely motion penalty on the offense likely kept Clarke from completing the drive with a touchdown, but he was still pleased with the results

"Any opportunity to help my teammates out is a good one," said Clarke. "We were trying to run the clock out. It's part of our four-minute offense. We were just pounding it and trying to make the other team lazy and tired." Although many players were shocked to see Clarke have so many consecutive carries, the sophomore admits that nothing surprises him when it comes to West Virginia's offensive system.

"I'm never shocked with our play calling," said Clarke. "It wasn't out of the ordinary. If they throw the carries my way, I will take them. It's not something I'm looking for but I will do whatever it takes."

Coming off of his impressive performance against the Terps, Clarke seems confident and ready to play in what will no doubt be the harshest environment that the young player has performed in. The Mountaineers have been practicing with loud music inside of the indoor practice facility to simulate the extreme atmosphere they will encounter at LSU.

"It's going to be loud," said Clarke. "We've been practicing with music and everything. We're just making sure we are ready for anything they throw at us whether it be loud music, trying to make us jump, we have to be ready for all of that."

However, the players that the Mountaineers will be facing on Saturday night seem to be more of a concern for Clarke and the rest of his teammates. Though they recognize they will be facing up against some of the best athletes in the nation, they are not letting the hype intimidate them.

"They have good athletes on their [defensive] line," said Clarke. "Their best player is one of the top defensive linemen in the nation. It's going to be a big challenge for our offensive line. I'm just going to play my game and treat them like any other team."

Despite all of the hype, Clarke just seems to be excited to have the opportunity to play against such a well known football program in such a famous arena.

"This game, on a Saturday night, everyone is going to be watching," said Clarke. "It's pretty exciting. We will enjoy it when we come out of the tunnel but as soon as the game starts, everything else has to be out of your mind."

Including, one figures, the possibility of being the focal point of offensive attention once again. But if that happens, it likely means West Virginia again has the opportunity to seal a win, and there's no doubt he'd love the chance to do it again.

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