Mountaineers Claim Share of Big East Title

Although many media members, including some that regularly cover the Mountaineers, repeatedly refused to acknowledge the fact that West Virginia was playing for a share of the Big East championship, WVU claimed the right to wear championship gear with a 45-28 win over Temple on Saturday.

On a blustery day that featured snow, wind and temperatures in the mid 30s, the Mountaineers used an opportunistic defense to jump out to an early lead.

Adam Jones pounced on a fumble created by Leandre Washingotn and returned it 47 yards for a score in the first quarter, then Lance Frazier got into the act by returning a bouncing punt 64 yards to paydirt to give WVU a quick 14-0 lead. Frazier then doubled up his senior day happiness by picking off a Walter Washington pass and returning it 26 yards to the Temple 30. From there, Jason Colson (28-104, 2 TDs) carried the ball for 23 of the remining yards on four carries, with the last being a two yard inside burst that pushed the Mountaineer lead to 21-0.

At that point the rout seemed on, but the Owls had other ideas. Although Washington was again intercepted on the next series, Temple steadied themselves and began playing to their strength - Washington running the ball. The Owls finally got on the board by taking advantage of a fumbled WVU snap from center, which they recovered on the Mountaineer 28-yard line. Washington, who would finish the day with an eyepopping 36 carries for 117 yards and four TDs, plowed eight yards up the middle to cut West Virginia's lead to 21-7, which is where the score remained at the half.

West Virginia's offense was anemic in the opening two periods, netting just 102 yards. However, as the snow subsided and the temperature dropped, the WVU offense seemed to come alive.

The Mountaineers marched ten plays in 4:46 to restore their three touchdown advantage, with Colson, Travis Garvin, Kay Jay Harris and Rasheed Marshall all getting carries on the drive. The big play was a 14-yard toss to fullback Moe Fofana, who bulldozed a would-be tackler on the way to a first down. Colson, filling in for the injured Quincy Wilson, did the honors from the two-yard line.

The game then turned into something of a shootout, as Temple responded with a 60-yard drive of their own to again cut the deficit to 28-14. The Owls were aided by a horrendous pass interference call that erased a third down and 22 situation.

WVU bounced right back, however, with a nine play drive that ended with a 42 yard touchdown pass to Chris Henry. That play, coming on third down and 16, might have broken the spirits of lesser teams. However, as WVU center Jeremy Hines noted, Temple did not play like a 1-10 squad.

The Owls matched WVU's score a second time, with Washington scoring his third touchdown of the game, this one from the one-yard line to cut the WVU lead to 14 again at 35-21.

Four possessions later , WVU finally got some breathing room when Brad Cooper hit a 31-yard field goal with just 3:44 to play, which put the Mountaineers on top by 17.

Once more, however, the Owls showed they still had life. Washington moved the Owls 60 yards in just 56 seconds to cut the lead to ten points at 38-28, and although an on-side kick failed, the Owls still appeared to be very much in the game.

However, on the next play, the Mountaineers finally iced the contest. Kay Jay Harris, who was hampered by a broken finger, took the ball, swept left end, broke about five tackles and romped 46 yards to the end zone to close the scoring and give the Mountaineers their first Big East championship in a decade.

WVU (8-4, 6-1)will next face Maryland in the Gator Bowl on January 1 in Jacksonville, Fla. Temple closes the season at 1-11, 0-7 in the conference.

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