Not A Good (K)night

Rasheed Marshall came out smoking to lead West Virginia to its first 2-0 start under Rich Rodriguez with a 45-20 win over Central Florida at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.,on Saturday night. Marshall fired four touchdown passes, equalling his career high, and connected on 14 of his 18 attempts in the game for 225 yards. The senior also added 65 yards rushing to his all-purpose total, including a 17-yard scamper for a touchdown that put WVU up 14-0 in the first quarter.

The Mountaineers dominated the game in the early going, driving to the UCF two-yard line before an Eddie Jackson fumble after a pass reception stifled the drive. That series also proved costly to the Mountaineers when running back Kay Jay Harris went down with a hamstring injury after just two carries. The loss didn't seem to hurt the WVU attack, however, as the offense scored on its next four possessions.

WVU scored on drives of 60, 53, 74 and 80 yards on their remaining four first half possessions to take a 28-7 lead. Chris Henry caught scoring strikes of six and 20 yards, and Jason Colson powered his way to paydirt from a yard away to account for the other three first half scores. Heach coach Rich Rodriguez, noting that the Mountaineers didn't punt until the first quarter, knew that WVU's offense was clicking.

"Obviously we were executing," the Mountaineer mentor said of West Virginia's attack, which racked up 277 yards in the opening half.

That may be the understatement of this young season. Only the lone turnover on the opening series, along with another rash of penalties, offered any resistance to the Mountaineer juggernaut, which reeled off 33 plays and faced only two third down situations in the half.

Central Florida, after falling behind 14-0, cut the Moluntaineers lead to seven on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Sumner to Tavaris Capers. Sumner was somehting of a surprise starter for Brandon Moffett, who held that duty agains Wisconsin the previous week. Sumner was a bit shaky early on, but grew more confortable as the game progressed. Central Florida's three-step drop passing game, combined with WVU's inability to get pressure on the passer, allowed Sumner to gain donfidence as the game progressed. That showed on UCF's last drive of the half, when Sumner engineered a nine-play, 45-yard drive that ended in a 46-yard Matt Prater field goal that kept the Golden Knights in the game at 28-10.

Coming out of the locker room to start the secomd half, WVU was in great shape to regain control of the contest after receiving the kickoff. Howeve,r it was UCF that set the tone with a big hit on Adam Jones' kickoff return. Four plays later, running back Jason Colson fumbled, and it took the fired up Golden Knights just two plays to score, this time on Alex Haynes' 21-yard run.

With momentum firmly on UCF's side, the Mountianeers now looked in danger of succumbing to a road upset, However, cool and calm Rasheed Marshall answered WVU's first pressure call of the season in fine style. Marshall completed a six-yard pass to Crhis Henry, added two on a quarterback draw, then hit Brandon Myles on a short screen that the speedy junior turned into a 57-yard touchdown. The play didn't exactly work as planned, as Marshall admitted that the pass to Myles was tipped, but it seemed as if this was the evening for the bounces to go WVU's way.

That play also seemed to take a bit of wind out of UCF's sails, and despite an ensuing drive that ended in a 39-yard Prater field goal, the fact that WVU moved the ball at will against the Golden Knight defense proved too much for thehome team to overcome. WVU promptly moved down the field again, and from the 11-yard line, backup running back Bryan Wright supplied the highlight of the game. Wright took a short swimg pass and was immediately blasted by a UCF linebacker, but the stout West Virginia spun away from the hit, sidestepped another tackler and sped toward the goal line. Facing two more enemy defenders, Wright lowered shoulder and bulled his way into the end zone. Not only did the play push WVU's lead out to 22 points, it also clearly demonstrated that the UCF defense was no match for the ruanaway train that was the Mountaineer offense.

The fourth quarter was marked by spectacular play in the kicking game. Following a UCF punt that was downed on the one-yard line, WVU was forced to punt from its own six on the first play of the fourth quarter. Despite that being West Virginia's first punt of the contest, Phil Brady responded to the pressure situation by booming a 61-yarder to get the Mountaineers out of trouble. WVU's defense then stopped the Knights, and this time Aaron Horne's end-over-end kick was take by Jones and returned 47 yards to the UCF 34-yard line.

"I was just tired," Jones siad of the play, which ended when he was barely tripped up. "That's the kind of tackle I usually break." The dangerous return man lay prone on the grass of the Citrus Bowl for a few moments before getting up and returning to the sidelines, but his heroics only ignited a brighter flame on special teams. Three offensive plays netted a lossof three for WVU, and Brad Cooper came on to try a 54-yard field goal.. Cooper kicked the ball exactly 54 yards, as the ball came down on the cross bar and hopped through the uprights for three and a 45-20 WVU lead.

"I've never seen anything like that before," said Marshall of the bounces, which also included a partially deflected Cooper extra point that somehow made it through the uprights as well. "I guess it was our turn to get them."

WVU finished the game with 460 yards, easily outgaining UCF's 299, but that was offset by a 2-0 deficit in turnovers. The Mountaineers did improve on third down conversions, turning four of their seven opportunites into a new series of downs, but also yielded five first downs to the Golden Knights via penalty.

WVU (2-0, 0-0) returns home next week to host Maryland.

Box score


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