Key Moment - Eastern Washington

With all of West Virginia's offensive firepower, the defense and the crowd get duel nods for the Key Moment in a solid goal line stand that was the very definition of bend-don't-break in the 52-3 win over Eastern Washington on Saturday.

The Mountaineers, ahead 14-0 thanks to tailback Steve Slaton's 105-yard, two score first quarter, had begun to be backed up into their own end via Eastern Washington's finest drive of the day. Quarterback Matt Nichols mixed safe passing with tailback Ryan Cole's steady running to move the ball from their own 20-yard line to WVU's two-yard line. A two-score advantage looked to be cut in half, meaning at least more play for the starters, and thus further potential for injury.

The West Virginia defense held Cole to no gain on the first play before Nichols threw incomplete to receiver Tim Calhoun, blanketed by Vaughn Rivers. The crowd and EWU's lack of offensive clock management forced the Eagles into a delay of game prior to the next snap. That brought up a third and goal from the seven, and WVU put itself in a hole again when Charles Pugh was flagged for interference to give Eastern Washington an automatic first down at the two-yard line.

Cole was stacked up again on his first two carries, and déjà vu ensued when the crowd again got loud, and the Eagles again faltered with game management. A second delay of game in as many third downs led to a final third and goal snap from the seven. Nichols overthrew receiver Aaron Brooks in the end zone, and EWU settled for place kicker Brett Bergstrom's 25-yard field goal with 14:51 remaining in the first half.

West Virginia, with a 14-3 lead, held onto a two-possession lead, enabling the coaching staff to begin to substitute freely, especially after backup tailback/starting fullback Owen Schmitt busted in from seven yards out to make it 21-3 on the next series. The rout was on from there in 49-point win, and the Mountaineers inserted a myriad of newcomers, resting its entire offensive line. Quarterback Markell Harrison even played a few series starting at the nine-minute mark in the fourth quarter.

"There were a couple series there where we were not happy with the defensive play," head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Sop those guys played a bit more. But we had 80-some guys play. It was nice to reward guys like Markell Harrison who have been in the program for a few years."

The defensive stand, while not of huge importance in the overall score, did allow West Virginia to do what it most needed – seal the win early and bring in the reserves, getting starters needed rest and eliminating the risk of injury heading into a short week of preparation for Maryland. It will be the first true test for the Mountaineers, who have outscored overmatched foes 94-13 in the first two games.


BlueGoldNews Top Stories