A Proper Sendoff

Kiss your spouse, hug your kids, and hide your couches. The city of Morgantown, and perhaps the entire Mountain State, may never be the same, because the WVU Mountaineers showed the nation and an overly confident Virginia Tech squad what Mountaineer football is all about with a 28-7 trouncing of the third ranked Hokies.

The Mountaineers jumped on Frank Beamer's squad early and never looked back en route to the second upset win over Benedict Arnold's troops in Maroon and Orange in as many years.

If Coach Rodriguez and staff had sat down to draw up a script for the first quarter, even they probably could not have come up with a scenario for the Mountaineers as great as what occurred Friday night in Morgantown. Virginia Tech won the toss in front of a late arriving crowd that braved the 43-degree October weather to come out and watch the Gold and Blue in its first ever Wednesday evening game. Four possessions later, West Virginia took a 14-0 lead and brought an enthusiastic gold-clad crowd to its feet.

The Hokies started fast and seemed to have the upper hand on the Mountaineer defense. Bryan Randall and the Tech offense moved the ball from their own 35 all the way to the WVU 25 and were poised to get on the board first and take the raucous Mountaineer Field crowd out of the game. On a first down play, however, WVU defensive back Brian King intercepted Randall's pass to kill the Hokie drive and put his name on the ballot for the Turkey Hunter Hall of Fame. The pick put the momentum on the side of the blue clad Mountaineers and they would take full advantage of the shift.

Starting at their own 10, Rasheed Marshall and the WVU offense came out with something to prove. After Wilson was stuffed on first down Rodriguez showed the Hokies that he was not going to be afraid to put the ball in the air. Rasheed dropped back and lofted a pass for Chris Henry. The sophomore wideout had nothing but open field ahead of him, but was tripped up by a Hokie defender before he could get to the ball. The play drew yellow laundry and the Gold and Blue picked up a first down on pass interference penalty. The play was a sign of things to come as West Virginia used a balanced attack to march right down the field. WVU rushed the ball seven times, threw it four, and was aided by three Hokie penalties on the opening drive. The drive was capped by a seven yard Kay-Jay Harris touchdown run that gave the Mountaineers the lead before many could even make it in from the congested parking lots around Mountaineer Field. The opening drive covered 90 yards on 11 plays, but more importantly proved that the third-ranked invaders from Blacksburg would not intimidate West Virginia.

After Brad Cooper booted the ball into the end zone, the Hokies began on the 20 and looked to answer WVU's early score. Virginia Tech moved the ball well and had the ball in West Virginia territory before the turnover bug bit again. On a second down and three, Bryan Randall botched an option pitch to Kevin Jones and Mike Lorello was there to steal away the pigskin for the Mountaineers. Three plays later, the West Virginia offense struck again.

On first down from the Hokie 36, Rasheed Marshall found a tight end for just the second time this season. Tory Johnson hauled in the Marshall pass for 19 yards and took the ball all the way to the VT 17. From there, Rodriguez put the ball in the hands of his senior superstar, and Quincy Wilson rushed for 12 and five yards to find paydirt and give the Mountaineers a two touchdown lead at 14-0. That score would hold for the remainder of the opening period, and the 56,319 fans that filled the 23-year-old stadium went wild as the first quarter gun sounded.

Nearly everyone watching the contest was waiting for the Hokie offense to make its run, but that run simply never came. Tech's next two drives ended in a three and out and a missed field goal, and were it not for a freak play and a terrible call, the Mountaineers would have taken a shutout to the locker room.

With just over two minutes remaining in the first half West Virginia was looking to score again when disaster struck. On a first down run from the VT 25, Quincy Wilson coughed up the football and Hokie linebacker Vegas Robinson scooped it up and headed downfield. Robinson was stopped at midfield, but with his knee on the turf, the ball popped loose. An officiating crew that seemed all night to be watching a different game never blew the whistle, and Hokie defensive back Vincent Fuller scooped up the pigskin and took it all of the way for a Tech touchdown. The WVU sideline exploded, but to no avail, and the Hokies cut the Mountaineer lead in half.

The 14-7 Mountaineer lead would hold up for the rest of the half, and a juiced up West Virginia crowd gave their team a rousing ovation as they headed to the locker room. A look at the first half statistics told the story as West Virginia controlled nearly every aspect of the contest. The Hokie defense that had been so highly touted coming in allowed the Mountaineer 131 yards on the ground, 82 of those going to Quincy Wilson, as well as 65 on five completions through the air. West Virginia posted 13 first downs, a four of seven mark on third downs, and most importantly, converted both of their red-zone opportunities into touchdowns.

The second half would prove to be more of the same. After the opening WVU drive failed, the Blue and Gold defense came through once again. As the Hokies looked to climb back into the game and swing the momentum their way, West Virginia tightened and made a statement that they were not going to let up. On a third and one play from the Tech 33, Ben Lynch and Grant Wiley stuffed Kevin Jones behind the line of scrimmage to force a Hokie punt. Pacman Jones, who was back to return the punt, had trouble finding the handle and had to fall on the ball on the West Virginia six-yard line. Two plays later, the Mountaineers again struck big.

With the visitors refusing to take their defenders out of the box, Rodriguez saw a great opportunity to throw downfield. On second down and nine, Travis Garvin broke free and Rasheed lofted a beautiful arching pass downfield. Garvin, who missed the Rutgers game to attend his cousin's funeral, had nothing but open field ahead as he ran under the ball. The speedy wideout turned on the jets and took the pass 93 yards for a WVU touchdown, the longest pass play in Mountaineer Field history. The bomb silenced the critics who claim Rasheed cannot throw downfield, gave the Mountaineers a 21-7 lead, and gave West Virginia fans hope that the upset could indeed become a reality.

It would not take long for the underrated WVU defense to strike again. The Hokies took over at the 21, but were backed up by a personal foul. On third and 18 from the Hokie 13, Bryan Randall looked downfield for an open receiver. Instead, Randall found WVU corner Pacman Jones and West Virginia, once again stopped any notions of a comeback. After coming so close just three weeks ago in Miami, the Mountaineers were not about to let this one slip away.

Three possessions later, Rasheed Marshall and the West Virginia offense put the nail in the Hokie coffin. WVU took the ball 34 yards on seven plays, and Marshall sealed the deal with a four-yard touchdown run. The score reminded Mountaineer fans, and an ESPN audience, just how dangerous West Virginia's quarterback can be with his feet and gave the Mountaineers a 28-7 lead that would hold up throughout. Another Brian King interception on the next Tech drive took all of the air out of the Hokies, as they could simply find no success against a stingy WVU defense.

The remainder of the contest was little more than a Mountaineer celebration and a running back clinic by Quincy Wilson and Kay-Jay Harris. West Virginia controlled the clock and the game as the WVU faithful celebrated one of the biggest wins in Mountaineer history. Chants of "ACC" filled the stadium as West Virginia fans mocked VT's move that stabbed their conference brethren in the back. The game ended with Rasheed Marshall taking a knee from the victory formation, and Mountaineer Field erupted.

West Virginia did not just win the game; they completely dominated the Hokies in every facet. The final totals showed the Mountaineers with 426 yards of offense compared to just 211 for Virginia Tech. The Mountaineers were again effective on the ground gaining 285 yards, but also proved that they can throw if they are forced to do so and out gained the Hokies through the air as well. Virginia Tech was never really in the game as West Virginia hit them straight in the mouth from start to finish.

It was a special night in Morgantown and one that Mountaineer fans will not soon forget. This game as been circled on the calendar since the schedule was released, and the anticipation turned into a magical performance on the field. The Hokies head back to the Old Dominion with a solid 6-1 record, but their hopes for a national title certainly took a major blow at the hands of their old rival from ‘Touchdown City.'

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