Dark Knights: WVU Rolls 40-0

It was an off-week, really. Just Rutgers, the old Ivy League foe in the Big East jersey. And West Virginia, who for 30 minutes played like one but kept its season alive.

On an overcast, wet autumn New England afternoon, the kind where one desires a crackling fire, a good book, and a faithful hunting dog, the Mountaineers were gift-wrapped a 40-0 win.

The contest surely resembled Princeton's 21-14 win over Colgate, played just down the road. Because while the athletes there might be worse, the play must have been better. In a gusty, 15 mph mist Rutgers snapped two balls over the quarterback's head, threw two interceptions, fumbled once and managed to create its own safety – all in the first half.

With respect to Rutgers' theatrical department – which could act more like a football team than the Knights – the play, no pun intended, was a comedy of errors.

"The play wasn't good enough to be competitive," Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said, "let alone good enough to win."

West Virginia didn't help. Again forced to ride its running game – quarterback Rasheed Marshall having overthrown nearly everything open – the Blue and Gold showed nothing save its one-dimensional finality.

The Mountaineers had field position the entire first quarter yet led just 2-0 as its offense netted less than three yards per play.

"At least we didn't turn the ball over, and that was the key," WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez said. Rutgers had five turnovers leading to 21 points.

Its running game, with 20 rushes for 25 yards, 19 on the last two plays of the game, didn't fare better. Neither did much WVU did.

When Jahmile Addae picked off Ted Trump on the game's third play to give WVU the ball at the RU 39-yard line, the next drive went 24 feet in five plays. Todd James' dying quail of a 48-yard field goal missed short.

The next four possessions featured Marshall's misfires and Rutgers' complete inability to run. At the half RU had one yard rushing on 19 carries.

"The rushing game was," Schiano said, "nonexistent."

It took West Virginia's defense becoming offensive to break the draught. On third and 12 from the RU 12 a botched snap sailed over Trump's head. The senior signal caller recovered in the end zone and defensive end Tim Love flopped on with 5:19 left in the first quarter for the first two points of the game. That came after Trump fumbled at the 14 yard line before recovering to move the ball to the 12.

It got worse when Trump finally did complete a pass on the next drive. That went for a loss of eight. The punt off that possession led to West Virginia's five-yard, 24-yard drive to go ahead 9-0.

Marshall found Phil Braxton in the end zone on his best rollout pass of the day for the score. He finished eight of 23 for 82 yards and the lone score. Danny Embick, in mop-up duty, connected with reserve tight end Ryan Thomas for the last score.

Jermaine Thaxton, on the next series, came up with his first interception of two on the day. He returned it 24 yards to the RU 18. West Virginia's red zone offense took over and, true to form, ran Cobourne three times to score and lead 16-0 with 11:45 before the half.

Both teams sunk deeper into a funk for the rest of the half. Rutgers' lone shot to score came off a fake punt that drew a pass interference call on Brian King. But on the next play Grant Wiley forced a fumble, one of five for the Scarlett, and Ben Collins recovered.

West Virginia, stalling on its next drive, opened the half with its most impressive push of the day. Grinding out 80 yards on 13 plays, the Mountaineers went ahead 23-0. The more than seven-minute march destroyed RU's drive to win and sealed the contest.

Cobourne, who rushed for 133 yards on 30 carries, and Quincy Wilson (55 yards, 12 carries) combined for 52 yards on the drive, which utilized mostly the double-barrel shotgun offense. Marshall, who threw 14 yards to tight end Tory Johnson on the drive, put the capper on it with a six-yard scoring carry. Twenty-three to zip.

Thaxton then intercepted again, and off rushes by Marshall, Cobourne and Wilson WVU went up 26-0 with 1:53 in the third on James' 37-yard redemption field goal.

When Rutgers, in the fourth quarter, faked a punt on fourth and one – none of the 12,937 hardcore in attendance expecting them to actually kick – WVU held and the Scarlett fans left en masse.

"Our guys did a good job of making them one-dimensional," Rodriguez said of WVU's first shutout since a 48-8 dismantling of Rutgers in 1997.

The most entertaining part of the rest of the game was when the Scarlet Knight and Mountaineer battled in front of the Rutgers student section. Round one went to the Knight, who knocked over WVU's mascot before garbing its saber. The Mountaineer picked up the shield, and the fight was even and raged on for a few more plays, before West Virginia's defense kept pouring it on.

Angel Estrada picked off Ryan Cubit – RU's backup quarterback and offensive coordinator Bill's son – on the next series and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown to make it 33-0.

It wasn't Maryland, in 1999, but as the drenching settled in on WVU's first road shutout since Pitt in 1996, it eased the thoughts of the last loss and turned attention to Syracuse; The Orangemen, 17-16 losers to Temple, are the homecoming foe and right now the biggest game of the year. And though that's only because West Virginia managed to win here, for right now the Mountaineers, who still believe, will take it.

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