Repeat Performance

Haven't we been here before? West Virginia didn't play its best game by any stretch of the imagination, but at the end of the day it was more than enough to win the game.

In front of about 53,000 fans at Mountaineer Field, and a nationwide audience on ESPN, Jason Colson, Rasheed Marshall and their Mountaineer teammates ran through a porous Syracuse run defense en route to a lopsided, and anti-climactic, victory.

The first quarter started off with Syracuse methodically moving the ball between the 30's, but were unable to put any points on the board after Collin Barber's 42 yard field goal attempt sailed wide right. The missed kick was just the tip of the ice berg for Barber, who couldn't catch a break all night.

The Mountaineers took over and right away, Marshall went to work. The senior signal caller picked up nine yards on the first offensive play of the night for the Blue and Gold, and added a nifty 15 yard run in the first series that culminated with Brad Cooper's 29 yard field goal. In the 11 play, 63 yard scoring drive, Jason Colson chipped in with runs of 13 and 17 yards.

The Orange continued to move the ball well, but again couldn't move it well enough to get into the end zone. Barber came in to attempt a 46 yard field goal, but junior spur Mike Lorello had other ideas for the home team. Lorello came right through the teeth of the Syracuse line to block the kick, which rolled all the way to the Syracuse 39 before Keilein Dykes fell on it for the Mountaineers. It took Marshall just three plays to get the offense into the end zone via a screen pass to Chris Henry, who took it 23 yards for the score. On the touchdown catch, Henry showed great balance after being tripped up at the five yard line, but still being able to get to the goal line.

The comedy of errors put on by the Syracuse special teams continued on their third drive of the game. After going three and out, the Mountaineers got their first look at the weird set up for Syracuse punts. The Orange spread out their entire line, using most of them to get down field into coverage. They use three up men, just like the Mountaineers. The idea is to get as many men downfield as possible to cover the punt, thus making the punt rush retreat to block for the return man. Of the ten Mountaineers rushing the punt, nine backed off to block for Pacman. The one who didn't, senior defensive back Thandi Smith, ran right past the three up men and clobbered Brendan Carney's punt. It was one of the strangest things I've ever seen at Mountaineer Field. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers couldn't capitalize as Brad Cooper's 23 yard field goal attempt was blocked. The score stood 10-0.

The game was uneventful until the Mountaineers got the ball back after Syracuse muffed a punt at their own 20 yard line. With 53 seconds remaining in the half, Marshall looked for Henry again and again, Henry came through. The 25 yard touchdown pass, complete with a cheap shot from Syracuse defensive back Anthony Smith, gave the Mountaineers a 17-0 lead heading into the locker room.

The Mountaineers went three and out on their first series, giving the Orange a chance to make up some ground. Patterson and company put together an impressive 13 play 70 yard drive that chewed up over six minutes of clock and was capped off by a two yard Damien Rhodes touchdown scamper. Barber's miserable night continued as his extra point attempt struck the upright. He was now 0-2 on field goals, with one block, in addition to the missed extra point. Seriously though, how can you not feel for this guy? Did he hit a black cat or something earlier in the week?

West Virginia responded to the score like a top fifteen team should, by answering with an impressive drive of its own. The men in blue marched off a 13 play, 57 yard drive ending in a 26 yard field goal from Cooper. At the end of three quarters, the Mountaineers were firmly in control with a two touchdown lead at 20-6.

After Syracuse turned it over on downs to start the final quarter of play, Marshall went up top to Henry for a jump ball that big number five came down with in Cuse territory. The final scoring drive of the night would culminate in another touchdown off the quick screen. This time, the recipient was none other than backup quarterback Charles Hales. Hales made a nifty move and showed off his athletic ability in getting up field and into the end zone.

Like I said earlier, it wasn't pretty but it was more than enough to win the game against an average Syracuse team. The Mountaineers have yet to play their A game, but regardless they are just four wins away from a second straight Big East Championship, and BCS bowl game. Bring on the State University of New Jersey!

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