A pair of old school performances highlighted our picks for players of the game in West Virginia's 24-21 win over Rutgers.
Nasty weather conditions and a swarming Rutgers
defense put West Virginia
into a power offensive frame of mind in its 24-21 win over Rutgers, and tailback Ryan Clarke
was there to answer the call. The big Mountaineer runner powered his way through the middle of the Scarlet Knight defense, helping West Virginia control the ball in the second half. With an excellent mix of power and speed, Clarke had a career day in rushing attempts with 14 carries. On those carries he was able to put up 58 yards of offense and a touchdown as he earned offensive player of the game honors.
Clarke's runs helped the Mountaineers gain 162 yards on the ground. Clarke's longest rush of the game came early in the final quarter when he run up the gut and found open space to the outside, gaining 24 yards run to help set up Tyler Bitancurt's 41-yard field goal.
West Virginia's defense was stellar for much of the afternoon, holding Rutgers to just 218 yards of total offense. It was again its usual stingy self against the run, limiting the Scarlet Knights to a paltry 65 yards on the ground on 35 carries – a measly 1.9 yards per attempt. One of the keys in that effort was senior linebacker Reed Williams
, who grabbed defensive player of the game honors with nine tackles, two sacks and a pass break-up.
Williams was especially effective against Rutgers' Wildcat offense, as his sure tackling limited Mohamed Sanu to a net of 47 rushing yards on 13 attempts. He also was a force against the pass, harassing quarterback Tom Savage into a 9-27 passing performance. In addition to his two sacks, Williams shared in another tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
Sidney Glover's interception return for a touchdown was a key in getting West Virginia out of its doldrums. Shadowing Wide receiver Tim Brown, Glover heard a reroute call and cut underneath a Tom Savage pass. With nothing but open field in front of him, Glover cradled the ball and ran 24 yards for a touchdown to give the Mountaineers a 21-3 cushion.
"My eyes got real big," Glover said of his pick six after the game. Even later, I still couldn't believe the ball came to me."
Glover also had four tackles on the day.
Scott Kozlowski's punting again played a huge role in winning the field position battle. A mixture of big punts and well-placed pooches kept Rutgers pinned deep for much of the day. Kozlowski put four punts inside the Rutgers 20 and also uncorked a 62-yarder in miserable weather conditions. He finished with nine punts for a 42.3 yards per punt average.
West Virginia's overall defense against the run not only kept Rutgers from controlling the ball and building drives, but it also limited the Scarlet Knights from working the play action pass. The Scarlet Knights weren't able to free either Joe Martinek or Mohamed Sanu with any frequency, and the Mountaineers held each under four yards per carry. That, in turn, kept RU from being able to influence West Virginia's linebackers or safeties with run fakes.
"Our focus was totally on the run," senior Zac Cooper said of the times when Rutgers lined up in the wildcat. "We just wanted to contain him and not allow any big plays."