Anderson, WVU Stop Syracuse

West Virginia made R.J. Anderson look like a legit quarterback in past meetings. But there's only so much it can do.

The Mountaineers moved to 5-2 on the season, 2-0 in the Big East, with a 34-7 win over 1-6 Syracuse (0-2). The MVP? The defense, with a major assist from Anderson. The quarterback proved as inept as promised, repeatedly missing wideouts, fumbling handoffs and carries and nearly giving the game to the Mountaineers.

"I don't know. I don't have any idea what went wrong," Anderson said. "It's frusterating."

WVU intercepted one pass and recovered three of four first-half Syracuse fumbles. Anderson was part of all three lost; the first a missed pitch, the second and third fumbled exchanges.

The junior underthrew a wide-open receiver on Syracuse's first possession and then overthrew another on the following drive. That pass was tipped into Jahmile Addae's hands to setup WVU's second score, a 36-yard Todd James field goal.

That made it 10-0. The Mountaineers punched in on their first possession with the most impressive drive of the day. Mixing the run and pass, Rasheed Marshall having found some range after Rutgers, WVU moved 80 yards in 13 plays, eating 4:47 off the clock.

Avon Cobourne, on his way to 108 yards, rushed five times for 13 yards and caught a 14-yard pass. He now has 1,002 yards on the season, his fourth consecutive with at least 1,000 yards. Quincy Wilson carried four times for 14 yards. He finished with 99.

Marshall was two for two passing with two runs of 13 and four yards, the last the scoring play. The sophomore completed eight of 16 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown. And although he overthrew a pair of big plays, he showed better accuracy consistently.

Rasheed, mentally, was sharp," Rodriguez said. "It was a confidence builder. He ran our offense and the system well today."

Anderson was merely consistently bad. He finished six of 17 for 71 yards, was sacked twice and didn't complete a pass until 7:09 remained in the first half. He was six of 16 for 71 yards with one interception in the half. Fifty-four yards and four completions came on SU's last possession before the missed field goal.

"It's hard to play a half like that, to drop the ball that much," Syracuse head coach Paul Pasqualoni said.

West Virginia, in fairness, dominated SU's run early and dispelled any notions of an upset. With the ground game bottled – the Orange rushed for 54 yards in the first half and 20 in the first quarter – the Blue and Gold concentrated on the pass. WVU blitzed from a variety of formations and rushed four to six players on most snaps.

That confused Anderson, who never looked comfortable throwing. Trailing by 10, Syracuse tried three passes in its next four possessions, two of which ended in fumbles. The first was recovered by Tim Love and on the next play Mike Page ripped off a 14-yard reverse to setup James' 25-yard field goal. WVU, 13-0 with 13:02 left in the second quarter.

"It was great to come out of the gate like that," WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Our defense was phenominal in the first half."

On SU's fourth possession Anderson's handoff to Walter Reyes was fumbled and Addae recovered for his second turnover of the game. Marshall went deep to Cobourne on the next play, and the incomplete pass drew interference. The 15 yards weren't as big a factor as the coaches showing confidence in Marshall's throwing.

It was rewarded two plays later, when the defense stayed back in coverage as the signal caller rolled out. The receivers kept the backfield in the end zone, and Marshall smartly tucked it and ran 14-yards, finishing the score with a lowered shoulder that resulted in a flip into the end zone, a la John Elway.

"He did a good job on the bootlegs," said Pasqualoni, who will suffer his first losing season in 12 years at Syracuse. "He is a fast runner, a good athlete."

The 20-0 score would hold until the half. Syracuse held form and fumbled again on the next drive, but WVU answered with Marshall's fumble. From there the teams traded possessions before Syracuse's best drive of the half.

The nine-play march ended in a low-liner 47-yard field goal that hit and rolled at the 10-yard line. The Orange had to feel fortunate to trail only by 20.

"We estabilished momentum, and that was important," Rodriguez said. "I'm proud of the efffort."

He should be. The first-half drive chart for the Orange read: Punt, interception, punt, fumble, fumble, fumble, downs, missed field goal. Half the drives ended in a turnover.

WVU also forced an SU punt to open the first half, then marched 50 yards in six plays to lead 27-0. Marshall, under pressure, connected with Miquelle Henderson for 20 yards and the score.

Anderson finally left on the next series after hurting his left shoulder being sacked for an eight yard loss. He was never inserted again.

But while Anderson was playing 12th man to WVU's defense, the Big East officials, on the 10th anniversary of the 1992 fight game, were again SU's best friend. The crew flagged West Virginia for nine penalties totalling 110 yards. The worst of which was for roughing the kicker in the second quarter when the Mountaineers clearly partially blocked a punt.

Syracuse had just four penalties for 31 yards, none costly.

The Big East crew, which missed at least six calls in the game, also flagged WVU for a head-to-head hit on backup QB Troy Nunes, though it was chest-to-chest and clean. The officials also awarded two questionable pass completions. On another pass, when WVU kept an SU receiver in-bounds, the officials stopped the clock with 0:19 to go with one of four personal foul calls against WVU.

It was typical officiating from a horrid crew that kept SU in the game as much as possible. Half a dozen more calls were declined and West Virginia was lucky it wasn't embedded in the ground, it was screwed so much.

Redemption came with 15 seconds left in the game when Wilson punched in from one yard out to push the lead to 34-7.

That gave him the 99 yards and the lone rushing TD of the game for the tailbacks. Cobourne gained 1,000 on a 12-yard carrry off left tackle with 5:49 left in the game. It was the fourth consecutive season Cobourne has rushed for 1,000 yards. Only four other backs have accomplished the feat in NCAA history.

WVU outgained SU 279-72 on the ground, with the attack spearheaded by Cobourne. WVU also had edges in plays, total yards, time of possession and first downs. It also registered a four-to-one edge in turnovers.


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