POG: West Virginia - Syracuse

West Virginia got strong front line defensive play and more production from an offensive stalwart as it downed the Orange in the Big East opener. Two players had key roles in WVU's 34-13 win.

Jock Sanders was the Mountaineer's old reliable against the Syracuse Orange, helping spark WVU's passing game against a defense stacked against the run. His initial contribution came on WVU's second drive, which lasted final 9:12 of the first quarter. On the drive he caught three balls from Jarrett Brown for a total of 27 yards. The 5-7, 180-pound wide receiver lead the team in receptions and in receiving yards with nine grabs for 67 yards.

Sanders was used sparingly in the running game. He had only one carry for West Virginia, but that one run was a nine-yard rush to the corner of the end zone to give the Mountaineers a 27-0 lead on the Orange half way through the second quarter.

Sanders also showed up in the return game, taking back two of Rob Long's kicks for 19 yards with a long of 11. Sanders ended the game with 95 all-purpose yards and a score.

On the other side the ball the Mountaineers were equally dominant, though it didn't show at first. The opening drive for Syracuse was successful, as the Orange ran the ball and moved downfield crisply. That is. until Syracuse quarterback Greg Paulus' screen pass was intercepted by WVU defensive lineman Josh Taylor, which pushed him toward defensive player of the game honors.

On the play, Paulus rolled out and heaved the ball across his body, only to be picked off by the 6-1, 275-pound defensive end. Taylor ran with the pick for eight yards, but was then stripped by Donte Davis. The fumble by Taylor was actually a blessing for the Mountaineers because linebacker Pat Lazear grabbed the loose ball and ran it back 53 yards to the Syracuse 11-yard line.

After the first drive was blunted by Taylor, the Syracuse offense lost all momentum. At the break the Orange had no scores and only 77 yards of total offense compared to the 218 yards and 27 points put up by the Mountaineers. Taylor had two solo stops for the game, and played well up front in helping hold the Orange to just 72 yards rushing in the contest. This was his third consecutive start in place of the injured Scooter Berry, who played a handful of snaps against the Orange.


  • Scott Kozlowski: The red-shirt senior saw limited action in the first half the game with only one punt in the waning minutes before the half for 34 yards. That punt pinned Syracuse on its one-yard line with a minute and a half to go, helping to ensure the first half shut out.

    Kozlowski booted the ball five times with a 43 yard per-kick average, with a long of 51 yards.

  • Stopping the run: Although the Orange have the worst rushing attack in the Big East the Mountaineer defense still did a good job stopping the Orange rushers. Syracuse averaged 94 yards on the ground coming into the game, but WVU's defense held it well below that average, with 72 total rushing yards and no touchdowns.

  • Pre-game Motivation: Before the game Bill Stewart and senior linebacker Reed Williams gave speeches to team to make sure that the Mountaineers didn't fall face down against the Orange. Stewart talked to the team about not hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock -- a theme that he has preached on often to ensure his team is ready to play from the opening whistle.

    The Mountaineers definitely took the words to heart because the offense, defense and special teams came up with big play after big play in the opening half jumping out to a quick 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, and dominating play throughout the entire first half.

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