WVU Land Assault Sinks Pirates

Wow. There are adjectives to describe the West Virginia rushing game and Avon Cobourne's effort behind a great performance by the line, but they are not coming.

It was simply an incredible effort as the Mountaineers demolished East Carolina 37-17 Saturday at Mountaineer Field. Fumbles, interceptions, long runs, solid passes and stifling first-half defense all helped WVU (3-1) win its second consecutive contest in convincing fashion. Cobourne rushed for 210 yards in the first half alone and finished with 260 to break Amos Zereoue's all-time career mark of 4086 yards.

The all-time school record of 291 yards in one game was set by Kerry Mauberry against Temple in 1971.

This game started fast and accelerated from there as WVU opened a 20-point edge in rushing for 275 yards in the first half alone.

The Blue and Gold received to start the game and immediately marched 48 yards in nine plays. With the offense clicking and the ball at the 20, quarterback Rasheed Marshall's pitch to Cobourne was fumbled and picked up by ECU linebacker Kelly hardy. Hardy returned the pickup 80 yards for a score to give the Pirates an early 7-0 lead. It was the last time they scored in the half.

That lone score was followed by the first shot of trickery from ECU head coach Steve Logan. The 11th-year head coach called an onside kick, and it looked like ECU would recover before it knocked the ball out-of-bounds.

West Virginia answered back on the next play as Cobourne broke an off-tackle run 52 yards to put the Mountaineers within one at 7-6. Todd James' PAT missed wide right, however, and WVU still trailed.

The squads flopped possessions before WVU finally began to take control on the Pirates own special teams' miscue. James' 36-yard punt was short and skidded in front of Terrance Copper, ECU's punt returner. Copper chose to try and field the wobbler, which clipped part of his hand.

A wild scramble ensued as seven players touched the pigskin as it rolled toward the end zone. Finally WVU's Arthur Harrison jumped on the ball for six easy points and the Mountaineer lead, at 13-7, for good.

ECU went three-and-out on the next possession and WVU burnt the Bucs on the ground again. Cobourne rocked the Pirates for 22 and 38 yards on the first two carries. But from there Miquelle Henderson fumbled a rush and it took Quincy Wilson's heads-up recovery at the one-yard line to give WVU a first down.

Marshall then took his turn dropping the ball on the rug on the next down. The sophomore recovered, however, and using Zack Dillow's leg as a brace, pushed backwards and squirmed into the end zone for a 20-7 lead.

The Pirates were simply smothered on their next two possessions and were never able to mount an offensive threat in the first half as West Virginia's swarming, get-to-the-ball 3-3 stack defense thwarted any ECU attack. Ben Collins intercepted Paul Troth in the next series before WVU forced a fourth and 23.

Off that punt WVU rode Avon to paydirt again to move ahead 27-7. The Mountaineers would have led by more, but a Marshall to Phil Braxton catch-and-run to the one was called back because of a hold. From there, without its holder in A.J. Nastasi (out with a high ankle sprain) and long-snapper Scott Fleming out with a concussion suffered on an early punt return, head coach Rich Rodriguez chose to go for it on fourth and two from the 21. Marshall's keeper fell one yard short.

The first half numbers were staggering. WVU outgained ECU 275-6 on the ground and had 294 yards of offense compared to 70. Cobourne had 210 stripes on 18 totes (11.7 yards per carry) and two touchdowns with the long run of 52 yards.

Marshall, who also rushed for 45 yards, completed four of eight passing for 19 yards. WVU, choosing to pound the Pirates, had those same 19 yards at the end of the third quarter as well.

To its credit, East Carolina drove well in its first drive of the second half as WVU took a bit of pressure off in the secondary. The Pirates, after getting to the WVU 18, were forced to turn the ball over the WVU on downs as Troth overthrew Tutu Moye on the sideline. When the Mountaineers couldn't move the ball, the Purple and Gold pushed 60 yards in 2:42 and seven plays for bring the tally to 27-14 with 6:51 in the third. Art Brown's 12-yard rush provided the score.

When West Virginia answered back with a 74-yard drive in three plays, it broke ECU's spirit. Wilson's 73-yard run did the trick, and the Bucs folded up ship and went home. WVU 34-14. The teams exchanged field goals to end it from there.

The rest of the game was simply a WVU highlight reel. Jahmile Addae picked off Troth with a great grab off a deflection to end the next drive, and then the subs and Cobourne got their highlights.

J.T. Perry made his first collegiate catch early in the third quarter, then followed it up two plays later with an 11-yard grab for a first down with 11:10 left.

And with 10:26 left in the game, Cobourne set WVU's all-time career rushing mark with a six-yard carry to knock Zereoue from the top spot.

In all, it was a dominating performance. WVU finished with 33 passing yards and 536 rushing yards, one of the most unbalanced attacks in school history in a win.

ECU was held to 65 net rushing yards, and added 207 passing yards for a total of 272.

Quite simply, wow.

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