'Eers Get Caned

Two first half interceptions leading to touchdowns doomed West Virginia in a 45-3 loss Saturday to No. 1 Miami in the Orange Bowl.

The Mountaineers (2-5, 0-3 Big East) fought through six total turnovers (and six fumbles) played evenly with the Hurricanes (6-0, 3-0) for the first half before 44,411 fans. But after WVU quarterback Brad Lewis was injured at the two-minute mark in the first quarter UM quickly capitalized on the mistakes of freshman signal-caller Derek Jones.

Tied 3-3, the teams swapped a pair of possessions before Jones, who was running well, forced a third and two pass to Phil Braxton that was intercepted by strong safety Ed Reed at the Mountaineer 34.

The Hurricanes then used five plays to move the 34 yards and lead 10-3 on tight end Jeremy Shockey's six-yard catch and run.

Replays showed Shockey's knee was down before the ball crossed the goalline. But the officials, who earlier had called Cobourne on a clip away from the play that put WVU in a second and 12 that led to the interception, ruled the ball was over the plane.

Receiver Andre Johnson had a 22 yard catch on the drive and tailback Clinton Portis had a six yard rush.

Miami put the game, for all purposes, out of reach on the next series when Jones was picked again, this time by strong safety James Lewis, who returned 74 yards for a touchdown.

The two picks were similar to last season's pair in UM's 47-10 win in which the ‘Canes defense scored three touchdowns.

"Our kids battled," Rodriguez said. "I thought we took a pretty good shot from them. We are not a real good team and need to get better."

WVU then tried to use trickery late in the half as Cobourne threw off an option play to a wide open Braxton, but the toss carried three yards too far. If the back simply put more air under the pass West Virginia would have pulled within 17-10 at the break. In an effort to get back in the game the Mountaineers also tried an onsides kick to start the half, but kicker Todd James' approach tipped it off slightly and the ‘Canes easily recovered.

The Mountaineer defense, playing with a long field for one of the few times during the game, held UM again.

But a fourth and four offsides penalty gave Miami a first down, and the Hurricanes turned the gift into a touchdown to go up 24-3. The 10-play drive of 57 yards was stopped, but again a blowup at a key time cost WVU.

"With all the injuries we had I thought we got a little tired," Rodriguez said.

When UM added another score on an 45-yard run by Frank Gore to go up 31-3, the game -- and West Virginia's will to win -- was finished. Miami added another score on a 14-yard touchdown pass to from Ken Dorsey to Johnson. The score tied the senior signal-caller with Steve Walsh and Vinny Testaverde for the career touchdown pass mark (48) at Miami.

The ‘Canes led 38-3 at that point and tacked on a 49-yard touchdown run by Gore after another WVU turnover for the final 45-3 margin.

"I really liked how we played in the second half," Miami head coach Larry Coker said. "It boils down to winning football games. Guys made some big plays for us and we scored and played great defense. We hope this impresses the BCS and people who make the decisions."

Still, overall the Mountaineers played a very solid first half and merely gave up after allowing the game to escape them with two major plays and a horrid penalty. Bright spots, a surprise to many, were plentiful.

Jones proved he could run. He made defenders miss and slipped by tackles routinely. But he also showed he was hesitant when forced to pass and did not have the grasp of the offense that Lewis does. Jones finished six of 15 for 42 yards and four picks. He was sacked six times but ran for 48 net yards.

Avon Cobourne rushed for 132 yards on 21 carries (6.3 yards per tote) and was very impressive in running through and over the Miami defense. The WVU offensive line, given up for dead after Virginia Tech, blew the Hurricane front four off the line of scrimmage and gave the QBs plenty of time to throw.

West Virginia's receivers also broke some plays, but a lack of speed kept them from being scores, which is the major difference between the teams.

WVU's line was also able to hold down the run and get a bit of pressure on Dorsey, while the Rick Bryant intercepted a pass and played very well in man-to-man coverage. Punter Todd James averaged 44.3 yards on seven punts and Shawn Terry cut through UM for 88 yards on three kickoff returns, including a 40-yarder.

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