The WVU offense that looked so impressive on the opening drive lost its luster and struggled to produce against an improved Rutgers defense. Brad Cooper's 27-yard boot with 5:18 to go in the opening quarter made the game 10-0 and would prove to be all that Rich Rodriguez's offense could produce until the final play of the first half.
Penalties and mistakes doomed the Mountaineers, as they simply could not find the rhythm that keyed the opening drive. Wilson continued to run the ball well, but 70 yards of penalties and a one for eight mark on third downs kept the Blue and Gold off the scoreboard and allowed Rutgers to hang around.
"From our standpoint it was really ugly," head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "There was a ridiculous amount of penalties. We were really poor in execution on both sides of the ball."
After a Grant Wiley interception and a Brad Cooper field goal, the Scarlet Knights got on the board for the first time with 5:07 left in the first half on the leg of Ryan Sands. The senior place kicker split the uprights on a 37 yard attempt to pull the Rutgers deficit to just one score at 10-3. That score almost held up through the opening half, but a huge mental mistake condemned the Scarlet Knights just before the halftime gun.
With just four seconds remaining on the Mountaineer Field clock, West Virginia faced a fourth down and 17 situation at its own 17 yard line. Rutgers called a time out to force the Mountaineers to punt the football and try to come up with a block or a return before the first half came to an end. Rich Rodriguez had other ideas, though, and marched his offense back onto the field to attempt to run out the clock. Rutgers still expected punt, as they had seen Rasheed punt the pigskin more than once this season, and stayed in a punt block formation.
Fully aware of Rutgers' mental lapse Rodriguez sent Chris Henry streaking down the sidelines and Rasheed threw a beautiful rainbow into his arms. The sophomore was all by himself and was never touched on his way to the endzone. The score allowed the Mountaineers to take a 17-3 lead into the locker room on the strength of the 83-yard strike. It was an exciting ending to an otherwise lackluster half of play.
The second half started much like the first for the Blue and Gold. West Virginia held the Knights to a three and out, and after a Joe Radigan punt found themselves with excellent field position at the Rutgers 48 yard line. Wilson again put the team on his shoulders and gained 46 yards on just 4 carries on his way to his second score of the afternoon. The Mountaineers lead 24-3 and it appeared as if it was time to run away.
Rutgers, however, showed a much-improved attitude than that displayed in previous trips to Morgantown. It became quickly apparent that the visitors were not ready to throw in the towel. The Knights took the ensuing kickoff and moved right down the field against Grant Wiley and the WVU defense. Rutgers used a balanced attack, throwing the ball four times and running it five on the way to a Justise Hairston one-yard touchdown plunge. The score put the Scarlet Knights just 14 points down and rejuvenated the RU sideline.
Those hopes became even greater two plays latter when Mountaineer superback Quincy Wilson left the ball on the Astro Play surface at Mountaineer Field and Rutgers tackle David Harley recovered at the West Virginia 10. Four plays later, Sands hit his second field goal to make the score 24-13 with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Rutgers fans celebrated, sensing a shot at an upset. However, the stop by the Mountaineer defense proved to be a boost for the up and down offensive unit.
Eleven points was as close as the men in red would get, as Wilson refused to let the W slip away. The senior rushed seven times for 24 yards and Chris Henry hauled in a 28 yard grab as West Virginia found the endzone again just three seconds into the final quarter to put the game on ice. Rutgers would score again and Brad Cooper added another field goal for the Mountaineers to complete a 34-19 West Virginia win.
The Mountaineers got their first chance to show off their vocal abilities with the singing of Country Roads after the first home win of the season. The choral festivities were a diirect result of a talented running back the refused to lose another game. ‘Q' carried the ball 40 times, gained 177 yards and scored three touchdowns in the victory. The defense was led by Mike Lorello and Grant Wiley, with both coming up with big tackles and and an interception apiece.
The Mountaineers have a long week to prepare before an ESPN showdown with Virginia Tech next Wednesday night in Morgantown.