WVU rolls past Eastern Washington

West Virginia scored on its first two possessions - both coming via the ground by tailback Steve Slaton - then chose to rest the starters in coasting to a 52-3 win over Eastern Washington on Saturday.

The Mountaineers (2-0), who led 14-0 after one quarter and 28-3 at the break, took Slaton and quarterback Patrick White out by the second quarter, the duo having combined for 175 yards of total offense of the 287 racked up in a fast-moving first half. Slaton tallied 105 yards in the first two series, then exited with a sore left ankle, which he iced on the sideline. White went 4-of-4 for 48 yards and ran for 22 more before being pulled because he felt a bit ginger.

"White and Slaton are troopers," EWU head coach Paul Wulff said. "They are the kids that make this engine go. They are perfect for this system. WVU has a really good team."

Slaton, who watched a second half in street clothes for the first time since high school, needed just 64 more yards to set the three-game record at WVU, which is still held by Avon Cobourne, who tallied 576 yards in the first three games of 2004 against East Carolina, Central Florida and Maryland. Slaton ran for 204 yards in the 38-35 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia, 203 in the opener versus Marshall and had 105 in the win over EWU (0-2). The 512-yard output left him 64 yards short of Cobourne.

It is good enough, however, to rank him eighth all-time at WVU in three consecutive games rushing. He posted his seventh career 100-yard game and scored his 20th and 21st career touchdowns. All 21 have come in the last nine games. That is good for sixth-place all-time, tying Undra Johnson and passing Fred Wyant and Quincy Wilson.

"I feel great," Slaton said. "The point was really just to save me for Maryland. We just iced it to make sure. I hate to come out of any game. But as long as we win it really doesn't matter. I think everybody wants to play, and this was a chance for everybody to get in and see what they have to offer."

The sophomore started the scoring with a 49-yard run in which he went untouched over the right side after being stopped for a one-yard gain on the first snap from midfield. That followed Eastern Washington's three-and-out on the first series. West Virginia then made it 14-0 after again forcing a three-and-out. WVU drove 68 yards in nine plays. The push, led by White's 20 yards passing (eight yards to Darius Reynaud and 12 to Brandon Myles) and Slaton's 55 yards, culminated in the latter's 17-yard run to put EWU down two scores with 6:35 left in the first quarter.

WVU coasted from there, setting up a match-up of undefeateds on Thursday, when ACC-rival Maryland (2-0) plays a nationally-televised game at Mountaineer Field.

"Maryland will be the first challenge," center Dan Mozes said. "We expected it out of Marshall, but we came out so excited and took them out of the game so early that it wasn't a factor. We performed here today. The first challenge will definitely be Maryland. They are an ACC opponent and a good team."

The Eagles did managed one solid drive, a whopping 15-play, 73-yard series in which they had two first downs inside the seven-yard line, but could add only a field goal. West Virginia was flagged for interference on third and goal from the five, giving EWU a new set of downs. They were stopped twice on the ground before quarterback Matt Nichols, who finished 13 of 25 for 90 yards, threw over the head of wideout Aaron Boyce. Place kicker Brett Bergstrom connected on a 25-yard field goal. It was the finest drive of the game for the Eagles, who were beaten 58-17 in the opener at Oregon State. In all, Division I-AA EWU fell to 7-14 against Division I-A schools. WVU won its 38th consecutive game when scoring 30 or more points.

The Mountaineers made it 21-3 on fullback Owen Schmitt's seven-yard scoring run. White, in his finala series of the game, rushed 30 yards on third and 17 to setup a 17-yard catch-and-run to Schmitt. White was roughed on the pass, and he did not return, though did not appear to suffer any significant injury. West Virginia plays Maryland on Thursday, and the coaching staff was cautious with the upcoming short week, especially after free safety Quinton Andrews' second interception in as many career starts killed the next EWU series.

"I have to make sure that I don't get beat deep," Andrews said. "I am the last defense back there. That comes with a little faith and trust with the corners, knowing that I will be coming over the top to help on the deep ball. Our defense made some plays. We made some things happen."

West Virginia began its next drive with a 20-yard reverse to Reynaud. The Mountaineers replaced White because he was running softly and apparently not feeling well. He is expected to be at full strength for Maryland, though is "feeling a bit sore now," according to head coach Rich Rodriguez.

WVU was finally stopped when it ran a toss sweep to Jason Colson on fourth and one at the Eagle 38-yard line. The call was a surprise because Brown is the largest Mountaineer signalcaller, and center Dan Mozes is a Remington candidate, leading one to believe a sneak was in order.

Defensively, linebacker Mortty Ivy was inserted in the next series, and had a pass breakup as Eastern Washington went three and out. Kent Richardson also saw additional time. It was the first playing time since the linebacker suffered a torn ACL in the first week of fall drills. WVU regained possession at the 27-yard line on the exchange.

The Mountaineers' first incomplete pass came when Brown went deep to Dewayne Thompson in the end zone with one minute before the half. He then hit Dorrell Jollah for a 10-yard completion on the next play to setup the Mountaineers with a first and 10 from the 20. They moved to the five-yard line before Eastern Washington took a timeout, announced by the ref as "Timeout, Eastern Michigan." Finally, Brown hit receiver Brandon Myles on the familiar skinny post on the next snap to go ahead 28-7 with 15.3 seconds left in the opening half. The play was the same one Myles scored on the open the 42-10 pasting of Marshall. The precise, 14-play, 73-yard drive covered 4:10 and upped West Virginia's total first half yardage edge to 167 at 287 to 120.

"It's really good on offense when you score the first couple of times," Rodriguez said. "It allows you to do other things with backups and things."

The Mountaineers largely used the rest of the game to work on passing and various defensive alignments. Wes Lyons recorded his first collegiate catch (10 yards) from Brown with 12:14 left in the third quarter. That set-up Brown's seven-yard run off the right side to finish off the first drive of the second half. The run, which made it 35-7, was similar to the one made by the redshirt freshman against MU in which he juked a defender before easily running in.

"Brown overcame his mistakes with athleticism," Rodriguez said. "he certainly doesn't panic. I'm really pleased with him. We have to get another guy ready, especially as much as we run Pat."

WVU began to substitute freely on the next series, inserting the entire backup offensive line and many freshmen skill players, like Lyons and Carmen Connolly. Pat McAfee's 24-yard field goal gave WVU a 38-3 lead with five minutes left in the third quarter. Reserve QB Nate Sowers came in on the next drive, along with Eddie Davis. West Virginia was forced to punt, and Scott Kozlowski's beauty of a punt was downed at the two-yard line by Guesly Dervil. Sowers would later score on an eight-yard keeper with 13:07 left in the game for a 45-3 lead.

Brown finished 11 of 15 for 129 yards and one touchdown on the ground and another in the air. Harrison provided the final score on a one-yard keeper with 47 seconds left. WVU finished with edges in first downs (32-12), rushing yards (394-76) and total offense (591-185). It scored all seven times it was in the red zone and converted 10 of 13 third down chances to help tally the most number of first downs in Rodriguez's six years as head coach.

Davis ran for 65 yards on 15 carries, while Brown had 70 on six totes. Reynaud, Lyons and Schmitt each caught at least two passes. Calhoun led EWU with three catches for 27 yards and Cole netted 60 yards on 17 carries.

"We would actually have liked to play Nate Sowers even more, but he tweaked his hamstring," Rodriguez said. "He had a hip problem, and then he had the hamstring, so we just took him out. We planned to play him another series."

West Virginia advanced to 10-0 in its last 10 September games. It is 10-1 in non-conference September games under Rodriguez (Wisconsin). It has won 27 of its last 31 regular season games and 28 of 32 overall. It has 34 rushing touchdowns in its last eight games.

Notes:

  • The 59,504 in attendance made the crowd the largest in front of which EWU had ever played. Oregon State drew 39,581 to the Eagles' road opener this season, which was the previous high.

  • West Virginia's two-man punt team return unit caused a bit of confusion when Antonio Lewis, a starting cornerback, called fair catch. The punt, however, was caught and returned by Vaughn Rivers, resulting in a delay of game call on the reserve defensive back.

  • West Virginia played a latter series with two No. 72s in the game, which should have been flagged.

  • Game captains for EWU were Rayshawn Bolden, Brad palmer, Justin Knapp and Warren Young. Team captains are chosen at the end of the season.

  • Greg Isdaner was the lone first-time starter. WVU now has 37 players with at least one game of experience.

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