Our picks for outstanding performers from West Virginia's 42-14 victory over Mississippi State.
Offensively, sophomore running back Steve Slaton had another dominating performance, running for 185 yards on 26 carries. It was the third game of the season in which Slaton picked up 150 or more rushing yards.
The Levittown, Pa. native had just seven carries in the first half for 78 yards. On West Virginia's first drive of the second half, he touched the ball on six of West Virginia's ten plays, including the final play of the drive when he scored from 11 yards out.
Defensively, the honor goes to senior defensive lineman Johnny Dingle. The junior transfer from the University of Florida had four tackles, including three tackles for a loss and a pair of sacks. On the day, the Mountaineer defense recorded a total of six sacks after recording zero in the season's first four games.
Dingle and his defensive teammates held the Bulldogs to just 56 rushing yards on 37 attempts. Dingle's presence helped limit Mississippi State quarterback Omarr Conner, a threat both throwing and running, to minus eight yards on the ground.
The first game ball goes to Eric Wicks. The senior bandit safety from Pittsburgh, Pa. had his best game of the 2006 season with six tackles, and was around the football for most of the afternoon. When he wasn't making tackles, Wicks was being a menace in the Bulldog backfield. Eric recorded two quarterback sacks, and made the quartet of Bulldog quarterbacks get rid of the football early on several occasions.
Wicks also recorded an interception in the second half, his second pick of the season.
Wicks' former high school teammate, junior cornerback Vaughn Rivers, deserves a game ball for his solid all-around performance. Rivers recorded three tackles playing both field and boundary corner on the afternoon, and in the fourth quarter had his first career touchdown on a 50 yard punt return.
On several past occasions, Rivers has been close to breaking a big return. Today, he finally did.
Finally, West Virginia's offensive coaching staff deserves a game ball for their plan of attack against the Bulldogs. The Mountaineers were on the road against a defense that was giving up just 104.6 yards per game on the ground. Playing 'West Virginia football', the Mountaineers rolled up 314 yards on 44 attempts, which translates into an average of 7.1 yards per rush.
The gold and blue picked up 16 of their 20 first downs, and five of their six touchdowns via the running game.