The Key Moment

Each week, staff writer Matt Keller identifes the key moment, play or turning point of the day's Mountaineer football game. To break him in gently, he had a fairly easy selection to make in WVU's 15-7 win over Syracuse.

Eric Wicks' interception return for a touchdown killed building Syracuse momentum and gave WVU its first points of 2005. The score, a 31-yarder, answered the Orange's opening score of the game and put the quietus on a suddenly loud Carrier Dome crowd.

Wicks set an early tone by drilling Syracuse quarterback Perry Patterson on a weak side blitz during a naked bootleg play on one series, then returning his second career interception for a touchdown on another. The pick -- the second of his career, both for touchdowns -- tied the game, 7-7, in the second quarter. He had a similar play from the other side of the field last year against Virginia Tech.

"That was huge. That changed the whole game," West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We were evened up when we got that."

Wicks stepped directly in front of Patterson's intended receiver and was unchallenged as he romped down the right sideline for six. The out route was recognized immediately by the speedy Wicks, who stunned the crowd of 45,000 with the easy touchdown.

The unpressured Patterson never saw Wicks and simply lofted an easy toss to the flat. The signal caller didn't come close to Wicks on the return.

"I read an out on the tight end and broke on it," Wicks said. "It was like the one at Virginia Tech, but better because we won. That's just good defense."

Syracuse never threatened again and looked horrid offensively as Wicks and the defense held it to 103 yards.

"He is just going to get better with more confidence," said WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. "We are real happy with where he is right now."


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