Buffaloes Stampeded

While the turnover bug bit WVU early in its Thursday night matchup with Colorado, the Mountaineers were able to find enough success on the ground to allow them to pull away late for a 35-24 victory.

Noel Devine ran for a career-high 220 yards on only 22 carries, including 52 yards on a pivotal drive that took over six minutes off the clock and ended with Ryan Clarke powering into the end zone from one yard away to give West Virginia a 28-17 lead.

The drive was significant for the Mountaineers, who had struggled in the passing game in the third quarter and watched Jarrett Brown take several sacks.

As a result, offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen opted to keep the ball on the ground for the biggest drive of the game, calling runs on 13 of the team's 14 plays. WVU began to dominate Colorado up front on the possession and had to convert only one third down play on the entire 69-yard drive.

"The drive in the fourth quarter was very, very impressive," said Mountaineer head coach Bill Stewart.

"The more the game went on, the more we put the ball in No. 7's (Devine's) hands."

That drive finally helped put things out of reach, as CU had hung around for much of the game. The fact that the contest remained close was due in large part to the four first half fumbles lost by WVU.

West Virginia struck quickly on its first drive of the game. After CU's Aric Goodman missed a 40-yard field goal on the game's opening possession, the Mountaineers took over at their own 23-yard line.

On the WVU offense's first play from scrimmage, Brown overthrew a wide open Alric Arnett on what would have been an easy touchdown. The letdown was brief, as Devine ran between the tackles before cutting outside for a 77-yard touchdown on the very next play.

Colorado responded on its ensuing possession, as Rodney Stewart converted a key third down by gaining four yards on a third-and-two. The running back then dashed 36 yards for a score on the next play, making an impressive move in the process to elude Mountaineer cornerback Brandon Hogan and break into the open field.

The teams traded punts before the turnover bug hit WVU for the first time. On the first play of the drive, Brown lost control of the ball on a rushing attempt and the Buffaloes' B.J. Beatty recovered at the Mountaineers' 34-yard line. It was Brown's third consecutive game with a lost fumble.

Colorado failed to capitalize on the error, however. A three-and-out left Goodman a 45-yard attempt, which bounced off the left upright and was no good.

Brown took off for a 26-yard rush on the ensuing West Virginia possession to put his team in position, but even an 11-yard completion on a third-and-eight wasn't enough to put points on the board. Bradley Starks fumbled on the very next play after a catch and run up the middle.

The Mountaineer defense held again, however, and the offense drove deep into CU territory once more after Brown hit Arnett once more for a 17-yard gain on third-and-11. But a turnover ended a WVU drive for the third straight time when Jock Sanders lost a fumble after catching a screen pass from Brown at the Buffaloes' 20-yard line.

"If we do not take care of our turnovers, we will not have a banner season like I think we can," Stewart said of the four giveaways, which came only one game after his team lost the ball six times in a loss at Auburn.

"We overcame turnovers against a good team."

The buttery fingers experienced by the offense were apparently contagious. J.T. Thomas intercepted a Hawkins pass and was returning the ball close to midfield when he was stripped. Scotty McKnight recovered for CU to give his team a fresh set of downs.

A 10-play drive ensued that was kept alive by a pass interference call on Robert Sands on a third down pass that had fallen incomplete. Buffaloes head coach Dan Hawkins later decided to go for a fourth-and-10 play at WVU's 37-yard line, and Riar Geer grabbed a 13-yard reception to make good on the gambit.

Goodman ultimately made a 39-yard field goal attempt to give Colorado a 10-7 lead with 3:51 remaining in the half.

West Virginia managed to avoid giving the ball away on its next drive and found paydirt in the process. Devine ran for 56 yards on the first play of the possession to put his team deep in CU territory, and Brown ultimately found Sanders for a 6-yard scoring pass to give the Mountaineers a 14-10 lead.

That edge would hold until halftime, as Sidney Glover intercepted a pass from Cody Hawkins in WVU territory to stop a late Buffaloes drive.

The Mountaineers moved swiftly on their opening possession of the second half, as Brown found Starks for a 48-yard touchdown strike on the fifth play of the third quarter, giving WVU a 21-10 lead.

But Colorado answered almost as fast. McKnight caught a nine-yard pass from Hawkins on third-and-eight to keep the drive alive, but was hurt on the play. He returned to action just in time to grab a 29-yard touchdown pass from Hawkins on fourth-and-seven. The Buffaloes were down only 21-17.

The defenses took over at that point, as none of the next four drives went any further than nine yards. Both of WVU's possessions in that time frame went for negative yardage, as Brown was sacked three times in the span of four offensive plays.

That was when Mullen and company opted to take to the ground for their lengthy drive, which ended with Clarke's touchdown to put his team up 28-17.

Ovid Goulbourne earned a critical sack of Hawkins on a third-down play with CU driving into Mountaineer territory on the ensuing possession. Goodman was left to try a long field goal of 57 yards that just missed.

While WVU failed to convert on that drive, its defense stiffened and held the Buffaloes on four plays to get the ball back in the red zone. Two plays later, Clarke ran in from eight yards away to put the Mountaineers up 35-17 with only 2:00 remaining.

A late 20-yard scoring pass from Hawkins to Markques Simas proved harmless, but set the final score at 35-24.

Brown finished the game 12-of-19 passing for 148 yards and two touchdowns, but was sacked three times. Clarke had a banner day, rushing for 22 yards and two scores on his five carries.

For CU, Stewart had 105 yards on his 21 carries, including a career-long tote of 36 yards for a score. Hawkins was 27-of-52 passing for 292 yards and two scores, but was picked off three times.


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