WVU - Cincinnati Key Moment

West Virginia's 21-point third quarter explosion changed a tight, tense game into a romp in just more than seven minutes of possession. But it was a basic defensive play that garners our Key Moment honors for the 42-24 win over Cincinnati on Saturday.

Down 14-3, the Bearcats (5-5, 2-3 Big East) moved the ball from their own 28-yard line to West Virginia's 36. It had a second and seven, and was threatening to pull back into a game in which its defense was performing at par, having not allowed any team to score more than 14 points in the first half all year. The Mountaineer defense forced an incompletion by quarterback Dustin Grutza, then stopped a crossing pattern for just five yards to set up a fourth and two from the 31.

Cincinnati tried a slight stretch play, rushing over the left side with tailback Butler Benson, who was stood up, then stripped of the football by safety Eric Wicks, who also recovered the ball. The actual recovery was irrelevant, because the loss of downs resulted in the turnover already. But the play itself started the run of points for No. 10 West Virginia (8-1, 3-1). It scored two plays later on a 65-yard run by tailback Steve Slaton to make it 21-3 with 5:30 left in the first half, the game was too far out of reach. The Mountaineers added three more scores with drives of three or fewer plays.

"That was huge," head coach Rich Rodriguez said of the stop. "Eric Wicks has got to be a leader back there, and he made a play. It was a huge stop for us."

The stop might not have seemed like much at the time, but combined with a three-and-out on the previous possession, it set the tone in a game in which West Virginia forced five fumbles and intercepted three passes, one of which came on a late UC two-point conversion try. All of the picks were recorded by the secondary, which got a much-needed shot in the arm, both confidence wise and in limiting a foe to just 57 yards rushing on 31 attempts (1.8 ypc). Freshman cornerbacks Guesly Dervil and Boogie Allen both had interceptions. The third was by free safety Quinton Andrews.

"We talked about how we play defense at West Virginia, how well we have done that historically," Rodriguez said. "The defense gave up a few plays with those new guys, but it was really the first time they have played. They were true, true rookies. I thought they kept their composure."

It would have been easy, on a day in which the normally explosive Mountaineer offense was even more so, to pick a play from that side. But the defense, with that stop, gave the offense a chance to seal the game. It did, tallying 42 total points, the most allowed by the Bearcats to any foe this year.

"Just like any other game, we knew what they were going to run," free safety Quinton Andrews said. "We took it in our hands to make plays as a secondary. (Wicks) did there, and we also got a few good breaks on the ball. We did not sit back and let the play happen. We felt we could match-up with them personnel-wise, and we went after it."


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