PoG: WVU - UConn

The Blue & Gold News staff presents its picks for the most outstanding performances from WVU's 28-24 Homecoming win over Connecticut on Saturday afternoon:

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Noel Devine. The junior seemed to be an unlikely candidate for this award at halftime, as he had only seven yards on 10 carries -- an abysmal 0.7 yards per rush average.

That changed as West Virginia's offense made adjustments in the second half, running almost none of the spread formation football that was its bread-and-butter in seasons past.

In the process, Devine showed what he could do out of more conventional formations, rushing for 171 yards on 13 carries in the final 30 minutes (a staggering 13.1 yards per rush) and ending the game with a total of 178 yards on 23 attempts.

His game-winning 56-yard touchdown will grab all of the headlines, but his 62-yard run in the third quarter may have been nearly as important. Two plays later, quarterback Jarrett Brown hit tight end Tyler Urban for a 1-yard touchdown pass to give the Mountaineers the lead.

? Devine continues to show how he has grown as a runner, patiently waiting for his blocks and using them to his full advantage. His balance, speed and ability to make tacklers miss are well-known.

If West Virginia continues to find success as a team and Devine puts up such lofty numbers on a regular basis, don't be surprised if the junior begins to get some mention as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Sidney Glover. The safety just continues to make plays when it matters most.



Sidney Glover

He was among those who finally managed to get a rare bit of pressure on UConn quarterback Cody Endres on the fourth down play that, once picked off by Chris Neild, ended any chance of a victory for the Huskies.

Glover had six tackles and a fumble recovery. He was also credited with a pass break-up.

Admittedly, the Blue & Gold News staff struggled to come to a consensus on this one and considered not giving out an award after the defense struggled to stop Connecticut's intermediate passing attack all game long.

But the fact that the same unit also managed to keep its opposition off the scoreboard time and time again when it had driven into WVU territory also has to count for something, and Glover's big plays earned him the nod.

GAME BALLS:

  • The offensive coaching staff. Credit coordinator Jeff Mullen and company for making adjustments in the locker room that allowed them to make hay in the final 30 minutes.

    Faced with a UConn defense that had blitzed relentlessly in the first half, the coaches modified their attack in the closing two quarters. Instead of running out of spread formations, Mullen dialed up more runs for Devine out of the I-formation.

    The offensive line made greater hay in the second half and paved the way for Devine's big runs. Jarrett Brown was able to be more effective, even if his numbers weren't as staggering as they had been in other games this season.

    In the end, the offense made enough plays late to bail out a struggling defense -- just one half after the roles had been flipped and the offense was largely ineffective.

  • Tavon Austin. His game-opening kickoff return touchdown proved to be of tremendous importance as the WVU offense sputtered in the first half.

    It also gave his team an early boost, which was of critical importance considering the amount of emotion Connecticut played with as it attempted to honor the memory of fallen teammate Jasper Howard.

    Bill Stewart has said that teams were hesitant to kick towards the fleet-footed Austin, and one could see why. He showed impressive acceleration and top-end speed as he pulled away from the pack and went into the end zone untouched.

    The fact that the play was the first kickoff return score for WVU since 2006, the seventh-longest return in school history and the first non-offensive touchdown of the season for the Mountaineers was only icing on the cake for the talented freshman.

  • The WVU fans. Perhaps some might see this as a bit of a cop-out and a touch on the cheesy side, but the way those in attendance handled both the delicate situation with Howard and the game itself was top-notch.

    In addition to the pregame moment of silence, Mountaineer backers stayed in their seats long enough to applaud the Huskies as they headed back to what was surely an emotional locker room after the game. Some could be heard chanting Howard's name.

    "The sportsmanship and the love and concern they showed for our team -- I don't know if I've ever seen that in sport," said UConn head coach Randy Edsall. "Those were a bunch of class fans. This is a classy staff and athletic administration."

    Beyond that, the fans also got involved when it mattered most. The noise at field level for the Huskies' final possession was very much present -- even in spite of a non-capacity crowd of 58,106.

    Stewart acknowledged their support by having his team walk over to the student section as "Country Roads" blared from the stadium public address system.

    "The fans were so loud I couldn't hear," Stewart said. "They stepped up."


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