PoG: WVU - UNLV

It was a relatively easy day for the WVU football team, a fact that was reflected by the lopsided final margin of 49-10 over visiting UNLV. As one might expect in such a blowout win, several Mountaineers had standout performances. But one oft-injured receiver rose above the rest, registering a record-setting day.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME:

  • Brad Starks.

    After seeing only limited action through the first four games of the season (and recording a total of zero catches in the same span), Starks showed that he is still capable of making plays in bunches.

    He caught four passes for exactly 100 yards. Three went for touchdowns, (covering 38, 48 and five yards, respectively) which tied him for the school record for receiving scores in a single game. It was the most touchdowns any West Virginia receiver has grabbed since Cedric Thomas turned the trick in a 1977 game against Villanova.

    Starks showed impressive speed, beating opposing cornerbacks easily on both of the long touchdown passes. To be sure, he benefitted from some perfectly-thrown balls from quarterback Geno Smith, but Starks did the work to get open and didn't let Smith down with any drops.

    At least for this game, Starks was good enough to allow WVU to stretch the field vertically in a way it had not yet done this season.

    If he can stay healthy (a big if, considering his oft-injured past) and perform at a similar level to what he did Saturday, it could go a long way towards helping the Mountaineer offense better take advantage of its other explosive playmakers.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME:

  • Julian Miller.

    Between series of West Virginia's last game, a 20-14 loss at LSU, Miller had to spend most of his time lying flat on his back along the sidelines, trying to minimize the pain from severe tightness in his back muscles.

    On Saturday, a recovered Miller terrorized the UNLV quarterbacks, helping make sure they were the ones on their backs.

    Miller had six total tackles, a pass break-up and a half-sack (shared with safety Robert Sands) against the Rebels. In the process, he led what was a relentless Mountaineer pass rush, which generated pressure on seemingly every snap.



    Julian Miller

    On the plays he wasn't registering in the box score, the junior was still wreaking havoc. Time and time again, the defensive end beat blockers to get into the UNLV backfield. He left little time for Rebel quarterbacks to survey the field, registered several hits and generally made life difficult for the visitors.

    It was a far cry from what Miller said earlier this week was a pain-filled performance at LSU. On that day, he said, every other step was agonizing. Contact, an essential part of play along the defensive line, was even worse.

    Miller played through the pain that day and went through some lengthy sessions with team trainers during the bye week. He reaped the rewards Saturday with an excellent game.

    GAME BALLS:

  • J.T. Thomas

    The senior linebacker was all over the field, making play after play to lead another dominating performance from a West Virginia defense that continues to make good on all the hype it had at the beginning of the season.

    Like Miller, his impact wasn't fully felt in the box score. The weak-side stalwart had four total tackles, including one that went for a loss of six yards. He was credited with one quarterback hurry.

    But Thomas patrolled his area of the field well. He was around the ball on seemingly every play. It was Thomas who tipped a Caleb Herring pass on UNLV's drive to start the third quarter that ended up as Keith Tandy's second interception.

    While the WVU linebacking corps struggles to find a way to integrate Pat Lazear back into the line-up, possibly effecting the starting spots at both middle and strong-side linebacker, there's no doubt Thomas will continue to be the man Jeff Casteel calls on to handle the duties on the weak-side.

  • Geno Smith.

    Smith played almost as well as possible for the brief time he was on the field. As a result, he was able to sit on the sidelines for the better part of the second half and start to think about Thursday night's Big East Conference opener against South Florida.

    By the time he exited, the sophomore signal-caller had thrown three touchdown passes, helped generate 353 yards of total offense, led six drives that had ended in touchdowns and left absolutely no doubt about the outcome.

    It took the Miramar, Fla., native only 12 completions (on a mere 16 attempts) to rack up 220 yards and the three scores through the skies.

    But the numbers alone don't do justice to describe what was a magical performance by Smith. He threw perfect passes all over the field -- short routes, intermediate routes and deeper bombs to Starks.

    Only a few slight overthrows made for blemishes on what was otherwise a perfect day for Smith. He showed Big East defensive coordinators that they will have to deal with a Mountaineer offense that is capable of generating points in a variety of ways.

  • Keith Tandy.

    There were few times where Tandy truly had to make plays in coverage, as he and his defensive teammates were causing hurried throws all afternoon long.

    That left the cornerback free to hawk after the ball, which he did to great effect. The junior had a pair of interceptions -- one of each of the UNLV quarterbacks which played Saturday.

    On both occasions, he displayed his ability to react quickly when the ball changed flight in mid-air. His aforementioned second pick came off a pass that was tipped by Thomas. The previous pick, a first quarter interception of Omar Clayton, resulted after strong-side linebacker Najee Goode had gotten a glove on the ball.

    Tandy has occasionally been maligned for giving up big plays. But in this game, and in West Virginia's previous contest at LSU (where he had another pivotal interception), he has made his mark by making big plays for the Mountaineer defense. That's a trend position coach David Lockwood surely hopes continues.


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