The gods had toyed with WVU, tempting it with thoughts of big upsets and bigger seasons only to wash it away with turnovers or blocked punts or penalties. For five long seasons it seemed the Mountaineers could do no right as their foes did no wrong.
But playing under clear skies and for a clearer goal, demons of Hokies and Hurricanes, Ohio States and Orangemen, were replaced with newfound hope.
To outsiders it was no big deal. To Mountaineer fans it was, well, Almost Heaven.
West Virginia played its finest first half of the year in ripping off a school-record 59 points and scoring on its nine of its first 10 possessions in the 80-7 romp over Rutgers in front of 44,685 on a homecoming Saturday at Mountaineer Field.
They could have scored 90 or 100, these gridiron warriors. Even with 80 they lead the nation in single-game scoring this season. And when they did finally pull up it wasn't because of lost chances or missed opportunities.
And it felt, for once, good to be a Mountaineer.
The Mountaineers (3-5, 1-3 Big East), setting a Mountaineer Field record for points, totally dismantled Rutgers (2-6, 0-5) in perhaps the most dominating performance ever at Mountaineer Field.
"It was contagious," WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We needed this. It was the first time everything really came together."
WVU created a great upfield push that led to three interceptions, two of which went for touchdowns. The Scarlett Knights lost three fumbles as well and had five turnovers in WVU's 31 point second quarter.
Heck, the Mountaineers lone punt of the half was even muffed by the Knights and recovered.
WVU also confused the Knights all day with the no-huddle spread attack. The Scarlett was continually pulling players off the field when WVU was snapping the ball, and mismatches and uncovered players were common to the point of being comical.
On the flip side RU freshman quarterback Ryan Cubit was sacked three times, twice by end James Davis who took the game over with a personal field day. Davis sacked Ted Trump, the backup QB, once as well.
But no stat is more telling than the yardage numbers at the end of the first quarter: WVU 234, Rutgers minus-eight. At the half it wasn't much better. The Mountaineers had a 376-54 yard advantage.
There were other notable first half stats.
Brad Lewis completed nine of 11 passes for 175 yards and two scores before giving way to Rasheed Marshall, who returned from a wrist injury to play in the opening series in the second half. He led the Mountaineers to a touchdown with a couple of nifty scrambles.
Avon Cobourne went over the 1,000 yard mark for the season in the first half when he rushed for 136 yards on 17 carries (eight yards per carry) with three touchdowns. He scored on the first possession of the second half for his fourth touchdown and 24th point of the game. WVU led 66-0 at that point with more than 12 minutes left in the third quarter.
His counterpart, backup superback Cooper Rego, scored on a 50-yard run with 0:23 left in the third for a 72-0 lead.
But there was so much more before that.
On its first possession Rutgers went three and out, and the Mountaineers quickly moved down the field. Lewis, starting after a back injury at Miami, connected with wideouts Mike Page and Phil Braxton for 22 and 15 yards, respectively. They were the first of nine players to catch at least one pass.
But the drive then stalled, and it took a fumble on the punt by Tres Moss for West Virginia's first score. The miscue was recovered by Ben Collins at the Rutgers 15, and Cobourne scored a play later for the first of WVU's 80 points.
Rutgers went three and out again and WVU drove 82 yards on four plays to move ahead 14-0. The drive, highlighted by a Lewis to Page 47-yard pass and Cobourne's 32 stripe run to paydirt, lasted 1:17.
Rutgers then began its turnover barrage.
It started with Davis, who came off the corner and smacked Cubit to cause a fumble. David Upchurch fell on the rolling pigskin at the 11-yard line and two Cassell Smith runs later WVU led 21-0 with 6:45 left in the first quarter.
James' fourth kickoff in nine minutes carried to the goalline, and the Knights had the ball at the 24-yard line after the return.
After a short Ravon Anderson run Cubit hit Martin for six yards to bring up third and one. Reserve running back Marcus Jones carried into the line and linebackers Grant Wiley and Kyle Kayden met him at the line for an third consecutive third-and-out.
WVU DB Lance Frazier camped under the punt and, as the ball spiraled down and a defender closed in, fumbled the catch. But as with everything else, the bounce went West Virginia's way.
The ball kicked off the turf and into Brian King's hands. King scooped up the muff and, with a wall forming, returned 13 yards to the 29.
Cobourne then ran for 12 yards, but a holding call brought it back. Lewis then kept around the end for 33 yards before Cobourne then picked his way through another gaping hole. An illegal shift brought that back, however, and a false start followed on the next play as it seemed West Virginia was the only team capable of stopping its offensive barrage.
Then, when a second and 11 reverse to Antonio Brown picked up 14 yards, and the Blue and Gold was rolling. Two Cobourne runs netted two, and Lewis threw incomplete to Miquell Henderson to bring up fourth and eight.
Rodriguez gambled and went for it. Lewis, out of the gun, eyed a wide open Cassell Smith out of the backfield. The floater was snared by the reserve superback, who had nothing but field and a blocker in front. Smith waltzed in for the score and the Mountaineers, unbelievably, led 28-0.
WVU started RU's next possession with a stuffed option and a sack. The third and 22 draw lost two more yards and when WVU took its fifth possession at its 33 to start the second quarter the yardage numbers read 234 for the Mountaineers and minus-eight for the Knights.
"We didn't do much of anything well," Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said.
RU was stuffed again and West Virginia then worked quickly, moving a workmanlike 65 yards in 10 plays to setup Brenden Rauh's 19-yard field goal to increase the led to 31-0.
The big play was Lewis' 20-yard pass to Seth Abraham. The diving grab put the ball at the 33. A play later Tory Johnson rambled 27 yards to the six before the Mountaineers were finally held.
Rutgers took over at the 29-yard line, but a false start put the ball at the 24. Wiley stuffed a run and Cubit threw incomplete before being sacked by Tim Love and Davis, who was consistently running down the youngster from behind.
After another Rutgers punt West Virginia started at the 28 with a pitch to Cobourne for 14 yards and a Lewis keeper for seven yards. The signal caller juked out a defense end for the gain.
It was a precursor to Cobourne's 43-yard burst up the middle on the next play. The junior was untouched until he got inside the 10-yard line. Finally knocked down at the six, Cobourne scored two plays later on a three-yard rush after RU was again called offsides attempting to substitute.
With 7:51 remaining in the first half West Virginia led 38-0 and had scored touchdowns on seven of eight possessions and added a field goal on the other. The average drive length was less than one minute, and the Mountaineers had nine plays of 14 or more yards.
Rutgers tried a fake reverse on the next kickoff, but Scott Gyorko smacked Nathan Jones, dropping him at the 12 yard line. On the next play RU fullback Troy Marion fumbled on his first carry of the season and Shawn Hackett scooped up the fumble and returned it for a touchdown. 45-0, WVU -- with more than seven minutes left in the first half.
There are no stats to show how powerful and impressive this display was, even against Rutgers.
Rauh had 13 points alone, Cobourne finished with 147 yards and had scored three times in the first half and Lewis had made people miss and thrown for big gains while missing on just two passes. The WVU defense alone outscored the Scarlett.
It was already easily the single most impressive first half dismantling of a team at Mountaineer Field.
And then a few plays later Kayden stepped in front of a Cubit toss as the freshman quarterback was trying to avoid a sack. The 36-yard return put the ball on the six yard line.
Kayden was hit by two Knights, who both stayed down because of injury. Kayden, ruled down before his fumble, walked off.
Two plays later Lewis fired to Henderson, who was uncovered in the end zone, for a 52-0 lead. To give an idea how bad it was, the freshman wideout went uncovered as RU linebacker Brian Hohmann ran off the field. The no-huddle offense was confusing Rutgers like never before, and West Virginia's defense was smelling blood.
"I told the players to compete as hard as they could and whatever happens happens," Rodriguez said. "They should play hard on every play, and they did that today. We put a total effort together."
It got worse.
Cubit was picked again on the next series, this time by Hackett, who found a wall along the RU sideline and raced 50 yards to put WVU up 58-0.
When the senior hit the end zone he threw the ball into the stands to celebrate, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. WVU was also charged with a late hit, which meant the extra point try was spotted at the 40, making it a 50-yarder.
It didn't matter. James came on and drilled the try, putting the ball just over the crossbar and West Virginia up 59-0.
Rutgers got the ball, again, and again Cubit's runs contributed most of the positive yardage. He was continually harassed and chased outside the pocket, and finally, to end the half, threw his third pick, this time to Angel Estrada.
West Virginia ran the ball once to end the massacre.
WVU fans had reason to stick around, however, as Marshall returned from his wrist injury to start the second half. On the initial possession Marshall led WVU to a five-play, 51-yard touchdown drive.
The scrambler had a 31-yard rush and Cobourne finished from six yards out for his fourth touchdown of the day to give the Mountaineers a 66-0 advantage.
Cubit was picked for the fourth time on the next possession, this time by Kevin Freeman, at the RU 34-yard line. Marshall was inserted again and managed one first down before WVU stalled.
Rodriguez chose to go for it on fourth and nine, and Marshall's slant pass was incomplete to Braxton.
It didn't matter as Rutgers again turned the ball over on a fumble. West Virginia had cooled at this point and did not make it's fourth and 18 attempt, turning the ball over on downs or a punt for just the third time in the game.
The Mountaineers later added a 51-yard scoring run by Rego and Quincy Wilson's 60-yard touchdown run with 2:57 to play for the final tally of 80-7. It was the first fourth-quarter points for West Virginia in five games and marked just the second game in which the Mountaineers have scored in the fourth quarter this season. WVU had 17 points in the last period in a 20-3 win over Ohio.
Rutgers scored its only points with 8:09 left on a three-yard run by Jones off a 91-yard, 17 play drive.
"We played great today," Hackett said. "It's a beautiful thing when it happens. Now we build off this. We go to Syracuse and see what happens."
But, just for a little while, let's enjoy it. 80-7.
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