Key Moment: WVU - Syracuse

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Syracuse was controlling West Virginia up front. The No. 12 Mountaineers had allowed three kickoff returns for major yardage. And the Orange, down just 14-7 and with the ball in the second quarter, were beginning to believe they could pull a second upset. Then Keilen Dykes emerged.

With kicker Pat McAfee having pinned Syracuse deep via a 63-yard punt – all of which was net – SU took over at its 10-yard line. Quarterback Andrew Robinson dropped to pass, looking right for a screen that was smothered by a disciplined Mountaineer defense. Feeling a rush, Robinson dropped a bit more and was hit by a charging defender. Already hurried and harassed numerous times, Robinson, who had not been intercepted in 104 attempts before free safety Ryan Mundy picked him off in the opening series to setup WVU's initial 7-0 lead, was again. Throwing off his back foot, the sophomore tied to find a back open in the middle of the field. What he found was another white jersey.

Reed Williams drilled the receiver, causing the ball to fall directly into Dykes' hands. The all-Big East player caught the bobble, then ran 19 yards into the end zone for a 21-7 lead with 12:15 to play before the half. Dykes got a pair of solid blocks and plunged over the goal line. The senior, who had been moved well by a combination center-guard block, had lacked penetration on the play. But, reading the screen, Dykes also backed off some. At times, being lucky is better than being good. Dykes was here, and the 21-7 lead eventually ballooned to 31-7 at the break on fullback Owen Schmitt's second touchdown run of the half and a McAfee field goal from 49 yards out that would have been good from 60-plus.

The kicker's influence on both the Key Moment and the entire first half should not go unnoticed. McAfee executed two solid sky kicks, only to be betrayed by a lack of coverage. SU return man Mike Holmes, lineup up beside the dangerous Max Suter – just 152 yards shy of the all-time Orange record held by Qadry Ismail – benefited from West Virginia's kicking away from the freshman. Holmes returned the opening kickoff 56 yards because of bad outside containment, then added 41- and 63-yarders on the next two tries. Holmes might have scored on the latter, had McAfee not come over to the sideline to cut him off. The Plum, Pa. native grabbed the returner by the shoulder pads and dumped him on his back, stopping the potential score.

Add in the resulting three-and-out, McAfee's skimming kickoff on his next try and his last kickoff that reached the end zone for a touchback, and the kicker had executed every type of style while also manning his defensive position. With his complete change of field position on his 63-yard punt that led to Dykes' score, his four extra points and his 49-yard field goal to end the half, McAfee was easily among the best performers in the opening half.

The Dykes score, making it 21-7, quelled any thoughts of an upset. The first career score for the defensive lineman, Dykes, a four-year starter, was making his 36th total and consecutive start. The last time a WVU defensive lineman had returned an interception for a touchdown was in 1981, when Jeff Seals picked off a Boston College pass at Chestnut Hill in WVU's 38-10 win. Seals' return, the lone one of his career went for 41 yards. Dykes finished the game without a tackle - one shy of McAfee - but did help the odd stack defense limit SU to 202 yards, including just 94 on 37 attempts.

West Virginia (5-1, 1-1 Big East), leading 31-7 at the half, outscored Syracuse (1-5, 1-1) 24-7 in the second half for its school-record sixth consecutive win in the series and third straight in the once-vaunted Carrier Dome. It is the most points ever allowed at home by Syracuse in its 118-year history and the most scored by WVU since it beat Rutgers 80-7 in 2001. Head coach Rich Rodriguez advanced to 6-1 against SU in winning his 100th career game. The Mountaineers are now off until their Oct. 20 homecoming game against SEC foe Mississippi State.

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