POG: West Virginia - Syracuse

BlueGoldNews.com picks the outstanding players and best performances from the West Virginia - Syracuse game.

Tailback Noel Devine set a new career-high with 188 yards rushing. West Virginia needed every last bit of it to hold off conference bottom feeder Syracuse on Saturday in front of a frustrated homecoming crowd of 58,133.

Devine's 92-yard touchdown run with 4:16 to play in regulation broke the tension, bumping West Virginia's lead to 17-6 and all but ending any hopes of Syracuse notching its first win over the Mountaineers since the 2001 season.

Devine topped the 100-yard plateau for the third time this season, and the sixth time in his career. The 92-yard run was the longest offensive play at Milan Puskar Stadium since Travis Garvin's 93-yard touchdown reception from Rasheed Marshall in a 28-7 win over Virginia Tech in 2003.

The run was the second longest in Mountaineer Field history behind Pat Randolph's 96-yard touchdown jaunt against Northern Illinois in 1986.

Defensively, spur safety Nate Sowers played well in a reserve role, seeing plenty of second-half snaps in place of starter Sidney Glover. Sowers picked off a Cameron Dantley pass attempt that could have potentially fueled a go-ahead scoring drive for the Orange.

The interception was the first of Sowers's collegiate career. The former Kennedy Award winner from Martinsburg was a two-way standout for the Bulldogs in his prep career, playing both quarterback and safety.


GAME BALLS

  • Pat McAfee. The kicker/punter continues to rewrite the Mountaineer record book. McAfee's 33-yard field goal in the fourth quarter moved him past Steve Slaton as the school's all-time leading scorer. McAfee also tied former Louisville kicker Art Carmody as the Big East's all-time leader in field goals made at 48.

  • Julian Miller. The redshirt freshman defensive lineman batted down a Cameron Dantley pass attempt in the third quarter on fourth down. Head coach Greg Robinson could have elected to punt, trailing by a single point (7-6) with more than a quarter to play. Instead, he rolled the dice on fourth and three from the WVU 43, and Miller made the play.

    West Virginia pushed its lead to 10-6 on the ensuing possession courtesy of McAfee's record-breaking field goal.

  • Will Johnson. The former wide receiver is still very much adjusting to his new position at fullback, particularly with the blocking aspect. Nobody, however, could have made a better block on Devine's 92-yard touchdown run late in the game. Johnson sealed off a Syracuse linebacker, opening the hole for Devine.

    Afterward, Devine was quick to credit his lead blocker.

    "Will Johnson was throwing the block," Devine said. "Once he had the block, I saw the seam and just busted it up there."


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