Mountaineers Fall From Ranks of Unbeaten

On this rainy fall day in Blacksburg Va., the seventh-ranked Mountaineers took the field to clash with the Virginia Tech Hokies, but right from the outset things just didn't go the Mountaineers way.

The first quarter started much like it would end, with sloppy play by both teams on both sides of the ball. The Blue and Gold could muster only one first down against the fired up Tech defense, and gained a total of 42 yards on 17 plays from scrimmage.

The Mountaineers and Hokies traded nine punts before the Hokies put together a five play, 42-yard drive that ended with a 30-yard field goal by Tech kicker Brandon Pace with 22 seconds to go in the opening quarter to give the home team a 3-0 lead.

The first quarter was also marred by penalty after penalty by a Big East officiating crew that seemed to think they should be part of this heated rivalry. A total of nine flags were tossed on the ground, five against WVU for a total of 54 yards.

Considering the sloppy play by the Mountaineers, head coach Rich Rodriguez had to feel comfortable only being down by three points. But as rain started to fall in the second quarter, the fortunes of the Gold and Blue, like the turf, only dampened.

The second period started much like the first, with the teams trading three punts. That soon changed with 8:36 to go in the half as the Hokies started their second scoring drive of the game.

Virginia Tech took the ball at their own 28-yard line and proceeded to drive the ball to the WVU 29 line before stalling and settling for a 46-yard field goal by Pace. The drive consumed 4:04 on the play clock and a total of 12 plays. It was helped by a controversial personal foul called on WVU's Jahmile Addae for helmet-to-helmet contact one Hokie tight end Jared Mazzetta. Replays clearly showed that Addae's helmet made no contact with Mazzetta's - it was a clean shoulder to chest shot.

On the ensuing drive the WVU offense seemed to find its groove as the Mountaineers started a drive at their own 36-yard line. The offense moved the ball to the Virginia Tech 23, sparked by a 19-yard Rasheed Marshall to Eddie Jackson completion. The game then took a nose dive for the Mountaineers as the dependable John Pennington dropped a Marshall pass on the three yard line and forced WVU into a field goal attempt. The 40-yard attempt was blocked by Jim Davis and returned for a Hokie touchdown by Vincent Fuller.

Instead of taking the lead at the half, the stunning turnaround made it 13-0 Hokies going into the locker room. The Mountaineers ended the half with 125 yards of offense against 94 yards in penalties.

The Mountaineers started the third quarter by kicking off to the Hokies, who returned the ball to their own 29-yard line. Tech then methodically moved the ball down to the WVU 12, with the big play 21-yard tote by Tech quarterback Bryan Randall. The drive stalled when a snap from center floated over Randall's head on third down, which forced the Hokies into a field goal attempt. The 29-yard boot was good, making the score 16-0 with 10:41 to go in the third quarter.

On the next drive the conservative play calling by Rich Rodriguez continued as the Blue and Gold settled for a three and out, but Tech's Pace missed a 34-yard field goal attempt to give WVU the ball back. Again the offense was stopped on three plays, and Phil Brady's 50-yard gave the ball back to the Hokies near the end of the third quarter.

The tiring Mountaineer defense then came up with a big play to get the white-clad visitors back into the game. Eric Wicks stepped in front of a Randall cross-filed pass and returned it 34 yards for WVU's first touchdown of the game. An ill-fated two-point conversion attempt failed,and WVU trailed 16-6 with just under three minutes to go in the quarter.

Just when WVU had seemed to seize the momentum, the Tech offense took the field a drove 33 yards on 10 plays, ending on Pace's forth field goal of the day, this one from 35 yards. The score gave Tech a 19-6 lead.

WVU quickly stuck back on the next drive with Rasheed Marshall scoring on a 46-yard rush bring the Mountaineers back to within six points, but despite having three more possessions, West Virginia could draw no closer.

WVU does not play again until Wednesday October 13, when they travel to Hartford, Conn., to take on Connecticut in the Mountaineers' first Big East game of the season. UConn is 1-1, with a win over Pitt and a loss to Boston College.

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