WVU Overcomes Mistakes to Down UConn

Once again the West Virginia Mountaineers stumbled and bumbled through a football game. This time, however, the opponent was not good enough to capitalize on WVU's errors.

Rasheed Marshall ran for 110 yards, and threw for 138 yards on 12-20 passing, including a 49-yard touchdown pass to Chris Henry in the 3rd quarter, to lead WVU to a sloppy 31-19 win in front of 40,000 fans at Connecticut's Rentschler Field on Wednesday evening. The game, which was played in front of a national audience on ESPN, handed UConn its second conference loss of the season, all but eliminating them from the title chase. Marshall's passing stats would have been much better were it not for the four dropped passes he suffered in the first quarter, as the Mountaineers did all they could do to keep the Huskies in the ballgame. At one point in the first quarter, Marshall's passing stats read 4-8, when he should have been 7-8, including a 50-yard touchdown pass that Chris Henry appeared to stop running on, and then let drop off his hands.

True freshman Pernell Williams was a real bright spot for the Mountaineers, carrying the ball 16 times for 89 yards and a touchdown, mostly in the second half. The hard-charging Ohioan displayed the tough interior running that the Mountaineers have been lacking during the first five games of the season. Jason Colson carried the ball 13 times for 111 yards and a touchdown, but fumbled the ball during a strong West Virginia march that would have iced the game with the Mountaineers leading 24-6.

UConn immediately capitalized on that mistake, and marched down the field behind the arm of Dan Orlovsky to cut the Mountaineer lead to 24-13. The real shame was that only about 5,000 Connecticut fans remained to see the Huskies fight and try to make a game of it in the fourth quarter.

Williams and Marshall carried the load on WVU's game-clinching drive, with the freshman bowling over three tacklers from 11 yards out to give the Mountaineers a 31-13 lead with less than four minutes to play. The Huskies again moved the ball down the field through the air, and Orlovsky threw his second touchdown pass of the game to cut the lead to 31-19 with 2:18 to go.

Connecticut then recovered an onside kick, and the Huskies appeared to be right back in business with 2:05 remaining in the game. However, Jeff Noechel stepped in front of an Orlovsky pass, and snared it to salt the game away. It was Orlovsky's third interception of the game, which included a pair of picks by safety Mike Lorello, who returned the first for a Mountaineer score.

West Virginia jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, behind the arm of Marshall, and the running of Colson. UConn was determined to stop the run, so the Mountaineers opened up with some quick passes to Henry, Brandon Myles and a nice throw to Eddie Jackson to give WVU a first and goal from the Huskie two-yard line. Colson barreled over on the next play, and the Mountaineers appeared to be dominating the game. After a Connecticut drive for a field goal, the Mountaineers bumbled their way through the rest of the first quarter, missing several chances to take control of the game. West Virginia continued the ugly season-long trend of shooting themselves in the foot after a successful play on offense. Holding penalties and illegal procedure calls snuffed WVU drives, and the errors were compounded on the first drive of the second quarter.

Facing a second down on the first play of the second quarter, the Mountaineers broke out an end-around to Pac Man Jones, who made three nifty moves and scampered untouched into the end zone for a 14-3 lead. Adam them proceeded with another one of the "my ego is bigger than the team's needs" plays by crossing his arms in the end zone and shaking his head at the crowd, and drawing a 15-yard penalty. Unfortunately, WVU's Brandon Myles was called for holding on the play, so not only did the Mountaineers not get a touchdown, but they turned what would have been a second and three into a second and 18. Forced to pass, Maurice Lloyd picked off Marshall on the next play, and the momentum was clearly shifted to the home side of the field.

"We wanted to run the play out of a timeout or change of quarter so they wouldn't recognize Pac Man coming in," head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We did plan on running it a couple of other times too."

WVU's potential game breaker turned, instead, into a ten-point swing, as the Huskies drove to the Mountaineer 17-yard line before settling for their second field goal of the game, which made the score 7-6.

After an exchange of punts, the Mountaineers proceeded to march right back down the field against the UConn defense, but again shot themselves in the foot with motion penalties, holding penalties and poor blocking up front. Brad Cooper salvaged the drive by booting a 39-yard field goal to move their lead to 10-6, which was the score at the half.

Two big plays in the third quarter sent the quick to give up Connecticut fans for the exits. Mike Lorello picked off a deflected Orlovsky pass, which bounced off the foot of his intended receiver, and rumbled 21 yards into the end zone to give the Mountaineers a 17-6 lead. The play was set up by a beautiful pooch punt by Marshall on the previous drive, which pinned the Huskies at their own two-yard line.

UConn did nothing with the ball on their next drive and was forced to punt. Husky punter Shane Hussar shanked the ball out of bounds and gave WVU the ball at its own 41-yard line. Two Rasheed Marshall runs gained 22 yards, and then Marshall hit a wide-open Henry for a 49-yard TD strike to extend the Mountaineer lead to 24-6, and sent the vast majority of the Husky not-so-faithful heading for the exits.

West Virginia outrushed the Huskies by a 309-97 yard margin, and while Marshall didn't approach Orlovsky's passing total of 268 yards, many of those were gained when the game was decided in the fourth quarter. It was the rushing totals, however, that set the tone for the contest, especially in the mind of UConn running back Cornell Brockington.

"I just say they whipped our ass, that's all I have to say."

WVU (5-1, 1-0) hosts Syracuse next Thursday night at Mountaineer Field in another primetime nationwide telecast.

Box Score/Stats

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