Playmaker

With West Virginia's running game a bit under the weather against East Carolina, the Mountaineer offense was, for the first time in a long while, dependent on its passing attack to move the ball against the Pirates. However, Plan B seemed to also be in deep trouble when WVU's best wide receiver crumpled to the sandy turf of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in the third quarter.

"I've never had cramps at all. That's the first time I've every cramped like that, and it happened in both legs," said Darius Reynaud, who spent several minutes in the end zone while trainers Dave Kerns and Tony Corley massaged and stretched his calves. "I couldn't even run my route. When I pushed off to make my cut, the ball was supposed to come to me, but I couldn't even run the route."

When Reynaud finally arose, he walked to the bench as gingerly as an elderly man fearing a fall and a broken hip. Prospects of any further action seemed remote, as Reynaud's muscular calves threatened to tighten back up again with the next movement. However, the Luling, La. native knew that his team needed him on the field, especially when teammate Steve Slaton was felled with the same problem.

"I sat out two series, and I had to sit down and get it iced and then run a little bit," said Reynaud of the time he spent on the sideline. That session also included a bit of a pep talk from teammate Dorrell Jalloh, who is a constant encouraging presence on the WVU bench.

Thus rejuvenated, Reynaud returned to the field, and just in time for a West Virginia offense still looking for its first touchdown of the half. Leading by just one score at 17-10, the Mountaineers needed one of the big plays that define their offense. With Patrick White and Steve Slaton slowed, if not stopped, by the ECU defense, the time was right for another member of the offense to emerge.

"In a game like this, we have a lot of playmakers on the team," Reynaud said. "And that's what I am – a playmaker. Pat, Steve, and a bunch of guys on the team are all playmakers. One of us is going to make plays and that's what we did tonight.

"The play was a screen pass," Reynaud explained. "Pat read the defensive end going to Steve, and I am the backside look. When the defensive end jumped Steve, Pat came to me, and I had to do something with it. When I saw the one defender I knew I had to make a move, or he was going to get me. So I juked him, then I cut it up past the linebacker, and that was all she wrote."

Sixty yards later, Reynaud crossed the goal line, shattering East Carolina's hopes for an upset with his final few steps. The play vindicated Reynaud, who, despite four receptions for 50 yards in the first half, didn't fell like he or the receiving corps had performed at peak efficiency.

"I knew we didn't catch the ball well in the first half," Reynaud said. "I was telling Coach Rod and Coach Jones that I would catch the ball. I said, ‘Just take your time and throw it to me, and I will go get it.' They came back to me at the end. It was still a close game, and when I got the ball, I knew I had to do something with it, so when I caught it I shook one dude, and then just used some speed."

The 60-yard scamper was the latest in a string of big plays that stretch all the way back to the Sugar Bowl, where Reynaud scored touchdowns both on the ground and through the air.

"In a way it all started [in the Sugar Bowl]," Reynaud recalled. "Knowing the capabilities I have, and playing teams like this – they are not a bad team. I knew that I had to come out and shine too. I am a disciplined player. I listen to what Coach Rod says, and I am learning how to play better all the time. He sees it in me, and in the end it will all pay off."

The payoff, of course, has already been coming. With just nine touches of the ball, Reynaud produced 168 all-purpose yards against the Pirates. Imagine what he can do when he gets the 15 touches per game that he should see as the year progresses.


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