POG: West Virginia - Maryland

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The BlueGoldNews.com staff selects the players and performances of the game from the West Virginia - Maryland football game.

Defensive end Johnny Dingle picked up any slack left by the line not having nose tackle Keilen Dykes full-time, thus picking up our defensive player of the game award. The senior finished with six tackles, including one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. He also had one huge fumble recovery, and continually harassed Maryland quarterback Jordan Steffy into multiple hurried throws, one an interception by safety Eric Wicks (one of his two on the day) that stuffed a Terp drive. In all, Steffy completed 16 of 23 passes, but was sacked five times. Tailback Keon Lattimore rushed for 80 yards, but just 29 of that in the final three quarters. One of the main reasons was that Dingle was able to help the WVU line at operate evenly versus a large UM front.

"He might have played his best game here as a Mountaineer," head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "He is making some plays for us."

Dingle and the rest of the defense held Maryland to 269 yards of total offense and gained three turnovers, the first of which was by Dingle when the end jumped on a loose football off a bad exchange between Steffy and center Edwin Williams on the game's first play. That setup quarterback Patrick White's scoring scamper for a 7-0 lead, and WVU had the early edge it felt it badly needed after slow starts in both its previous outings. When the Mountaineers (3-0) scored to open the second half and the defense stopped Maryland on its first two drives to help open a 28-7 edge, the game was over.

"Johnny Dingle has played well," defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. "He has stepped up in a leadership role as far as doing things we need him to do. He is going to have a good year."

The offensive player of the game honors go to … Noel Devine. Steve Slaton was a close second, and actually outrushed Devine137-136. Slaton also scored three times to Devine's zero. But the backup back averaged 27.2 yards per rush on his five carries and showed open field explosiveness and shifty moves that even Slaton envied. His 76-yard run from scrimmage tied the longest non-scoring carry in WVU history (Jim Moss, William and Mary, 1962), a dubious distinction for such an outstanding performance. Devine actually setup Slaton's last two scores, and had the back managed three more feet on either one, he would have jumped Slaton in both rush yardage totals and scores, with two.

"This is more than expected," Rodriguez said. "He is a guy that is even better in the game. He is different within that game speed. You saw today what we saw on film. He gives me and (offensive coordinator) Calvin Magee the ability to rest Steve some more. We have depth at tailback, and we need to take advantage of that."

Devine also caught a pass and was able to spell Slaton, much needed with the junior's 26 totes. Devine flashed his overall speed and burst, yes, but also followed blocks well and utilized his smaller frame size to hide behind the linemen, playing peek-a-boo with the Terps (2-1) before dashing past them.

"He is a quick, shifty guy," Slaton said. "You have to break down a bit more to grab him. When you do that, he goes by you. I think all the athletes showed you can't just key on me. You have to key on the whole offense."

Noel Devine

Game Balls

  • Keilen Dykes. The multi-position defensive lineman gutted out a start at nose tackle when even Rodriguez did not think he would play. Bothered by a foot sprain suffered against Marshall that was compounded by the short, five-day preparation, Dykes still manned the slot and battled Williams for the majority of the game. The fifth-year senior and four-year starter showed both why he is a team leader and an all-Big East selection, and will now have more than one week to prep for the next game, at home against East Carolina. The grit and determination to play is a lesson to the team and is one of the acts that helps build camaraderie and respect, two ideals that could become large as the season progresses.

  • Steve Slaton. The back ran for his usual 100-plus yards and was a workhorse, carrying 26 times. He gashed and bashed Maryland for a second straight year, helping WVU to a school-record fourth consecutive victory over the Terrapins. Slaton scored West Virginia's second touchdown, providing the needed halftime cushion to calm a team in its first major road test, then helped the Mountaineers seal the game with two more touchdowns in their first three possessions of the second half.

    "We took advantage of the offensive line blocking," Slaton said. "They did a good job up there opening holes for us. We just hit them. We are getting into the groove again. I feel like I am up to the challenge (of 26 carries). I think the offseason helped a lot. I feel like I had just 10 carries. I felt good."

  • The offensive line. The behemoths up front dominated a sizeable Maryland defensive seven and created enough seams for Slaton and Devine to take advantage. They also protected White effectively and allowed West Virginia to pick up some chunks of yardage via the pass. And for the third time in as many games, the line wore on its foes and showed superior conditioning into the latter half. Maryland wilted, West Virginia flourished, and the second 30 minutes were a carbon copy of earlier wins over Western Michigan and Marshall with the WVU offense mowing over the Terps on the natural grass surface and establishing everything possibly wanted. Barwisized, indeed.

  • The secondary. WVU held the Terps in check all night. But the secondary made multiple plays, both on the ball (Wicks' two interceptions and Larry Williams' blanket coverage down the sideline on a deep Steffy pass to test the Mountaineers early in the second half) and within coverage. West Virginia's sacks came as much because of its ability to run with wideouts as the push up front. For a unit that has been the brunt of much bad press, it's time for a dose of praise. Well done, both for the unit and for coaches Tony Gibson and Bruce Tall.

    "Our secondary stepped it up today," linebacker Mortty Ivy said. "A lot of people were doubting our defense, talking about the pass rush. But our secondary did what they had to do and we put pressure on them and got coverage sacks. We made plays. We are trying to get better every week. Our defense played very good today, but we have to keep getting better."

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