Crystal Ball 2005 - Virginia Tech

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Playing in a continuous downpour due to the remnants of Hurricane Lee, West Virginia University relied on its running game to upset seventh-ranked and previously undefeated Virginia Tech at Milan Puskar Stadium on Saturday evening by the score of 18-14.

In doing so, West Virginia took possession of the Black Diamond trophy for the foreseeable future, as the contest was the final game scheduled between the two regional rivals.

Freshman tailback Jason Gwaltney returned to the WVU lineup from an ankle sprain the week before to lead all rushers with 103 yards on the evening. Gwaltney kept alive his streak of at least one touchdown in every game he has started at West Virginia by tallying his seventh score of the season. He also surpassed the 500-yard barrier for the year, and now owns 553 yards in WVU's five games. West Virginia outgained the Hokies on the ground ( 269-187) and led in total yardage 298-276.

The Mountaineers and the Hokies combined for nine turnovers – five by the visitors and four by West Virginia. That total was one short of the Mountaineer Field record of ten set in the 2003 WVU-Cincinnati game. The downpour was a factor in the miscues, as the ball proved to be slippery in the miserable conditions. Field position was also at a premium in the game as neither team could mount a successful passing attack due to the elements and the parade of turnovers. Only 43,415 fans braved the heavy rain to watch the contest, which had been sold out for months.

West Virginia won the toss and, given the deluge, not surprisingly elected to defend to start the game. Colby James' low liner kick-off proved difficult to handle for Hokie return specialist David Clowney, who had to fall on the ball at the Virginia Tech 29-yard line after bobbling the reception. One the second play from scrimmage, Tech quarterback Sean Glennan, starting in the absence of Marcus Vick who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Tech's victory last week against Georgia Tech and is lost for the season, attempted a pitchout to Hokies tailback Mike Imoh. Imoh mishandled the ball and WVU's Mike Lorello pounced on the loose pigskin at the Tech 20-yard line. West Virginia took immediate advantage of the turnover, as Gwaltney and Mountaineer fullback Owen Schmitt ran up the middle on five consecutive carries to the Hokies' three-yard line. Gwaltney then scooted outside and dived across the goal line, hitting the pylon en route to give WVU the initial lead at 6-0. The extra point attempt failed as the snap was unable to be handled cleanly, leaving WVU with the six-point advantage with just 3:43 gone in the first quarter.

The Hokies fielded the ensuing kick-off cleanly and managed to reach the WVU 46 when they committed their second turnover. Glennan botched the snap from center and WVU nose tackle Ernest Hunter fell on it to put the Mountaineers back in business. However, five plays later the Gold and Blue returned the favor, as Jason Colson coughed up the ball at the Hokies' 42-yard line. Tech, like West Virginia, was unable to capitalize on the miscue and the teams proceeded to trade possessions throughout most of the first half. During the series of exchanges West Virginia fumbled once more, but again Tech failed to take advantage as the WVU defense held its own, forcing a Tech punt, but things soon took a turn for the worse.

With 3:34 remaining in the first half, West Virginia committed its third turnover of its night as Schmitt was hit head-on on a fullback plunge and the ball squirted loose. Hokie linebacker Vince Hall recovered the pigskin at the WVU 32-yard line and Tech took advantage of the recovery with its lone touchdown drive of the first half. Imoh and fullback Brandon Ore alternated carries with Tech moving to the WVU four-yard line. On third down, Imoh slipped through a gap in the middle of the Mountaineer defensive front and into the end zone. Foregoing the extra point attempt, Tech went for the two-point conversion and tried a pass to tight end Jeff King, but linebacker Kevin "Boo" McLee batted down the pass, which kept the score knotted at 6-6 going into the locker room at halftime.

West Virginia received the second half kick-off, but bad things continued on the Mountaineer side of the field. Following an initial gain of 14 yards by Gwaltney, quarterback Pat White, who had replaced starter Adam Bednarik, tried to mix up the Tech defense by attempting one of the only eight WVU passes on the day. White's errant aerial was picked off by Tech linebacker Nathaniel Adibi at the WVU 37 and returned to the Mountaineer two. Imoh blasted over the left side of the WVU defensive front two plays later and Tech led 12-6. Again eschewing the conventional PAT because of the elements, the Hokies went for the two-point conversion. This time they were successful, as Glennan scooted into the corner of the end zone on a designed bootleg play. The score gave the visitors a 14-6 with 1:51 gone in the third quarter, and seemingly put them in the driver's seat.

However, on a day such as this, momentum can change quickly, Tech stopped WVU and got the ball back, but at the point the pendulum swung back toward the Mountaineers. At their own 39-yard line, Tech tailback Cedric Humes coughed up the ball on a hard hit by Mountaineer linebacker Jay Henry. WVU safety Jahmile Addae scooped up the loose ball and returned the fumble twelve yards, putting the offense back in business. White picked up eight yards on a quarterback draw and Gwaltney followed with three consecutive carries to the nine, giving the Mountaineers first and goal. Three running plays took the ball to the one, creating a fourth and goal situation. Bypassing the field goal because of the sloppy conditions, Rodriguez called for a dive play and Gwaltney got the call, but fumbled on the hand-off from White. The ball popped into the line and a frantic scramble ensued. Mountaineer left guard Dan Mozes ended up at the bottom of the pile with the ball in the end zone, scoring the touchdown for West Virginia. The Mountaineers elected to go for the tying two-point conversion, but Gwaltney was stopped just short of the goal line and Tech clung to a 14-12 lead with 7:55 remaining in the third quarter.

After a three-and-out by WVU, fumblitis infected Tech yet again, as Glennan coughed up the ball on a sack by WVU's Andrae Wright at midfield. West Virginia moved to the Tech 21-yard line, where the drive stalled, but fortune continued to smile on the Gold and Blue. A temporary lull in the downpour allowed Rodriguez to call for a field goal attempt, and freshman Pat McAfee split the uprights on the 38-to put WVU back in front at 15-14.

As the game moved into the fourth quarter, Tech began a long drive from its own 33-yard line. Imoh led the way with carries of 12 and 11 yards and Humes picked up seven, seven and eight on consecutive carries to move the Hokies to the WVU six. On first and goal, the turnover nightmare struck the Hokies again, as Humes committed his second fumble of the evening. Defensive end Johnny Dingle ended the threat by recovering for West Virginia, with fully ten minutes remaining. The Mountaineers then drove from their own eight-yard line to the Tech 27, with the key play being a 21-yard quarterback keeper by White. Colson added 19 yards on three carries during the march. Tech's defense stiffened, but McAfee connected on his second field goal of the night, a booming 44-yard boot into the driving rain that gave WVU a bit of breathing room at 18-14 with 5:37 remaining.

The defending ACC champions then began their last offensive series of the night, going to the air as the rain tapered off. Glennan hit flankers Eddie Royal for 14, then atoned for a Dingle sack by finding Josh Hyman for 17. West Virginia stopped another attempt by Glennan and a short run by Imoh to bring up a third and long situation. This time, it was the Mountaineers themselves, not the weather, which proved detrimental as a roughing the passer call turned a third down incompletion into a first down for the Hokies. Thus bolstered, Tech continued with another Glennan completion to tight end Jeff King over the middle and solid running by the veteran Imoh, which put the ball to the WVU seven-yard line with 1:22 left.

On first down, Glennan went for the touchdown pass to King but the ball was tipped away by WVU spur Eric Wicks. An Imoh run on second down gained five yards to the two, but on third down, Tech surprisingly went to the pass again. Glennan was pressured by Keilein Dykes and was forced to throw the ball out of bounds, setting up a fourth and goal from the two. After two timeouts – one by Tech and one by the Mountaineers – the Hokies lined up for their final offensive play of the night. Glennan took the snap from center and pitched the ball to his right to Imoh. Imoh turned the corner and appeared to have a chance to get into the end zone, but he slipped slightly on the wet turf, which allowed Mountaineer linebacker Jeff Noechel to get a clean shot and deliver the game-saving hit for West Virginia. Noechel stood Imoh up and drove him out-of-bounds just short of the goal line to thwart the go-ahead score. Noechel's tackle set off a wild celebration among the drenched fans in attendance, and was capped as White took the snap and burrowed his way behind center Jeremy Hines to the one-yard line as the clock ran out.

"It was a great night to be a duck and we waddled a little bit better than they did," cracked WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez in the media room after the game. "We tell our guys that they have to be prepared for anything at any time and we got our share of the anything part tonight with this weather. In conditions like this you have to rely on your running game and your defense and our guys came through on that end. I'm not too happy about the turnovers but they had one more than we did, so I guess I won't be as hard on the guys as I normally would."

Asked what he felt was the key to the victory, Rodriguez said, "I thought our defense was just terrific. We gave the game ball to Coach Casteel and the defense, in general, for the way they played tonight. Clearly Jeff's [Noechel] play at the end was the clincher, but to hold a Top Ten team like Virginia Tech to fourteen points? I don't care what the weather is like - we could be playing on the moon and holding Tech to fourteen points would be a real accomplishment, so I give our defense a ton of credit."

Asked about the quarterback switch at halftime, Rodriguez explained, "We thought Pat's running abilities were better suited to the conditions we were playing in. Adam's a good runner, too, but we thought Pat might give us an even greater running threat with the passing game being practically impossible for most of the night. I think it was the right call and it seemed to work out for us."

Dejected Hokie head coach Frank Beamer lamented the weather but refused to use it as an excuse for the defeat. "We played in the same conditions they did, so we can't blame that," said a still soaking wet Beamer. "The weather did take away a lot of our passing game, but it took theirs away, too. It boiled down to who won the trenches and who had the turnovers at the most inopportune times and ours hurt us more than theirs hurt them. Defensively, I thought West Virginia played great and the big stop at the end was obviously the play of the game. If Mike doesn't slip a little he's probably in the end zone and we get the win, but that's football. It's a game of inches and we came up a few inches short."

"I'll miss playing West Virginia," said Beamer in reference to the discontinuation of the series, which dates back to 1912. "It's been a good rivalry, but it may have gotten a little out of hand as far as some of the fans go lately, so maybe it's a good thing that we take a break, but I wouldn't mind playing West Virginia again somewhere down the road."

WVU and Tech have faced off for 33 consecutive seasons, and fifty times overall.

In a show of respect, Beamer said, "I enjoyed the challenge of playing Don Nehlen all those years. Don was a great coach and an even greater person and I'll always remember the games we had with Don's teams. Rich has certainly kept the West Virginia program playing at a high level. I think West Virginia will do just fine and their fans will be happy with where they're going under Rich."

With its out-of-conference schedule completed, West Virginia now faces Big East conference opponents for the remainder of its season. Next up for West Virginia is the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey on Saturday at noon, while Virginia Tech hosts the Marshall Thundering Herd for their homecoming in a second consecutive contest against a Mountain State foe.

PASSING – WVA – Bednarik 1-3-11-0-0 White 2-5-17-0-1 3-8-28-0-1 VT – Glennan 9-14-89-0-0

RUSHING – WVA – Gwaltney 22-103-1-1 Colson 15-71-0-1 Williams 10-39-0-1 Schmitt 6-21-0-1 Bednarik 2-(-10)-0-0 White 8-45-0-0 63-269-1-4 VT – Imoh 25-91-2-1 Humes 21-73-0-2 Ore 6-25-0-0 Glennan 4-(-2)-0-2 56-187-2-5

RECEIVING – WVA – Myles 1-13-0 Reynaud 1-4-0 Bailey 1-11-0 3-23-0 VT – Royal 2-23-0 Hyman 2-25-0 King 2-18-0 Clowney 1-15-0 Imoh 2-8-0 9-89-0

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this article are intended for entertainment purposes only. No criticism, direct or implied, is intended. The author assumes no responsibility for any errors or inconsistencies and has produced the series strictly for the enjoyment of Mountaineer football fans during the agonizing summer months without WVU football.

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