By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
December 2, 2006
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Cornerback Vaughn Rivers broke up a Mike Teel pass on Rutgers’ two-point conversion attempt in triple overtime to give No. 15 West Virginia a thrilling 41-39 victory over No. 13 Rutgers Saturday night at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va.
The loss knocks Rutgers out of contention for a BCS bowl and puts West Virginia into a position to be invited to either the Gator or Sun Bowls. Rutgers is now likely headed to the Texas Bowl while Louisville will be the Big East’s representative in the BCS bowl.
“There’s a lot of hurt in there – a lot of sad young men,” said Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. “But they’re resilient guys; they’re going to bounce back.”
For the first time in school history West Virginia has produced back-to-back 10-win regular seasons.
“What a ballgame,” said Mountaineer coach Rich Rodriguez. “I’m very proud of our guys. No one panicked tonight.”
West Virginia could have, especially when starting quarterback Patrick White told the coaching staff that his ankle hurt too much to play. Rodriguez made the decision to start backup Jarrett Brown right before kickoff and the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., native came up with a fabulous performance.
Brown completed 14 of 29 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown, and also ran 17 times for 73 yards and a score. Brown finished with 317 yards of total offense in his first career start.
“We have every confidence in Jarrett Brown,” said Rodriguez. “He did a great job of using the opportunity he was given. His one bad throw (interception) was a bad call by me.”
Rutgers (10-2, 5-2) was impressive at the game’s outset, taking the opening kickoff and driving 80 yards in five plays. A Teel pass to Kenny Britt for 19 yards and a Kordell Young 15-yard run moved the ball to the WVU 46. Teel then hooked up with Tiquan Underwood for 30 yards down the sideline to the Mountaineer 16, and Rice finished the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run.
West Virginia got a pair of first-half field goals from Pat McAfee from 32 and 38 yards. His third try from 47 yards fell just short of the cross bar.
In between Rutgers-West Virginia first-quarter scores, Jeremy Ito made a 36-yard field for Knights to boost their lead to 10-3.
The Mountaineers had a great opportunity to add a TD right before the end of the half after they took over at the Rutgers 46 with 2:00 remaining. A Brown to Tito Gonzales pass for 20 yards on third and 10 moved the ball to the Scarlet Knights 26, and a two-yard Brown run on third and one gave West Virginia a first down at the Rutgers 17.
But WVU, without any timeouts, was forced to spike the ball at the Rutgers 15 on third down to give it an opportunity to get a McAfee field goal before halftime.
West Virginia (10-2, 5-2) took its first lead of the game at the start of the third quarter, driving 70 yards in seven plays. Slaton ran for 21 yards to the Rutgers 49 and Brown found Dorrell Jalloh wide open down the seam for 48 yards to the Scarlet Knights one. Two plays later, Slaton got in from the one. McAfee’s PAT made the score 13-10, Mountaineers.
After forcing Rutgers to punt, the Mountaineers were back in business again taking over at their own 46. Brown made a key third down pass to Brandon Myles for seven yards to keep the sticks moving, and escaped a Rutgers third-down blitz to run 40 yards down the near sideline for a touchdown that was upheld after review.
It took one play for Rutgers to answer, however, when Tim Brown ran right past WVU corner Larry Williams and Teel lofted a pretty pass that Brown caught for a 72-yard touchdown. It was Brown’s first career TD and it was also the longest play of the season for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers used a 13-play, 79-yard, 6-minute drive to tie the game. The Knights converted two third-down plays before the Mountaineers stopped a third one at the four, forcing a 21-yard Ito field goal with 9:51 remaining.
Darius Reynaud’s 51-yard return on the ensuing kickoff set up West Virginia at the Rutgers 49, but Devraun Thompson intercepted a Brown pass intended for Reynaud at the 18 and returned it to the 46. Rice ran for 27 yards to the WVU 27. After converting a first down to the WVU 17, the Knights faced a big third-and-seven play. Teel’s pass was dropped in the end zone by James Townsend that would have given Rutgers a 27-20 lead. The Scarlet Knights settled for a 31-yard Ito field goal to give them a 23-20 lead with 3:55 left in the game.
Brown had key completions to Reynaud for 26 yards and Jollah for 13 yards to set McAfee up for a 30-yard field goal that tied the score at 23 with 53 seconds to play.
Rutgers had a chance to win the game in regulation but Ito’s 52-yard field goal attempt fell short to send the game into overtime.
The teams traded field goals in the first overtime. McAfee struck first from 42 yards and was matched by Ito’s 37-yard kick.
Once again the two teams traded scores: Brian Leonard plowed over from one and Slaton also crossed over from the one sending the game into a third overtime.
After a two-yard Owen Schmitt run, Brown got away from a fierce Rutgers pass rush, headed down field and then flipped a pretty 23-yard pass to Brandon Myles in the end zone. Once again, instant replay upheld the play giving WVU a 39-33 lead.
Having to go for the two-point conversion, Brown fired a rope into the stomach of Jalloh to make it 41-33, West Virginia.
Rutgers third OT possession began with a Teel pass to Sam Johnson for nine yards. Then Rice gained 14 yards up the middle to WVU 2. After two unsuccessful runs, Rice finished off the drive with a one-yard plunge on third down to pull Rutgers within a two-point conversion of sending the game into a fourth overtime.
On the two-point try Teel dropped back and tried to pinpoint a pass to Rice in tight coverage, but Rivers was there to break it up and preserve the Mountaineer victory. “You do overtime in training camp, the mechanics of it,” Schiano said. “And we practiced two-point conversions.”
Slaton ran 23 times 112 yards and two scores, becoming the school’s single-season rushing leader with 1,733 yards.
“Steve was patient tonight,” Rodriguez said.
Jalloh had a career-high four catches for 92 yards; Myles also finished with four catches for 63 yards.
“I’m very happy for my seniors,” Rodriguez said. “Every senior night is emotional. I’m happy they have one more game.”
Rice had 129 yards on 25 carries with a pair of scores. He became the first back this year to run for more than 100 yards against the West Virginia defense. Teel was 19 of 26 for a career-high 278 yards while Kenny Britt caught 10 passes for 119 yards.
“They have nothing to be ashamed of,” Schiano said. “They played their hearts out.”
Rutgers has never won in Morgantown.
RU – Rice 16 run (Ito kick)
RUSHING: RU – Rice 25-129, Young 7-39, Leonard 4-8, Team 1-minus 2, Total 37-174; WV – Slaton 23-112, Brown 17-73, Schmitt 4-9, Reynaud 1-1, Team 1-0, Bruce 1-0, Total 47-195.
PASSING: RU – Teel 19-26-0-278-1; WV – Brown 14-29-1-244-1.
RECEIVING: RU – Britt 10-119, Underwood 3-39, Brown 2-90, Harris 2-20, Townsend 1-7, Leonard 1-3, Total 19-278; WV – Jalloh 4-92, Myles 4-63, Slaton 3-37, Reynad 1-26, Gonzales 1-20, Bruce 1-6, Total 14-244.
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