Saturday in the Park
By Christopher Marshall for MSNsportsNET.com
September 22, 2007
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Those who were questioning whether West Virginia was worthy of its No. 5 ranking got a resounding answer on Saturday afternoon as the Mountaineers played their most complete game of the season, racking up 599 yards of total offense while holding East Carolina to just 139 total yards en route to a 48-7 victory at Milan Puskar Stadium.
“I was very pleased with the way we played today in all three phases,” West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I think we executed schemes well against a pretty good football team. Pat (White) was extraordinary. He was the sharpest you could be today.”
White threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns and Steve Slaton added 156 all-purpose yards and another score to lead WVU to the win.
The Mountaineers (4-0) played a near flawless game on offense, churning out 397 rushing yards to go with 202 yards through the air. White was remarkably accurate throwing the football, completing 18 of his 20 passes. The Daphne, Ala. native also rushed for 42 yards and a touchdown.
True freshman Brandon Hogan was White’s favorite target, catching six passes for 44 yards. Darius Reynaud caught five balls for 54 yards and two touchdowns and added a 64-yard run on a reverse to set up Pat McAfee’s 31-yard field goal for the game’s first score.
West Virginia scored on five of its six first half possessions to take a 27-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Mountaineers scored their first touchdown of the day on a one-yard plunge by Steve Slaton to make the score 10-0 with 7:12 to go in the first quarter. The score gives him 42 career touchdowns, which ties the school record held by Avon Cobourne and Ira Errett Rogers.
White added a 13-yard scamper for a touchdown and Reynaud took a 12- yard screen to the house to add to a dominant first-half performance.
The Mountaineers converted 7-of-11 third down attempts and converted all eight of their red zone trips into points. West Virginia has now converted on 22 of its 23 red zone attempts so far this season.
As good as the Mountaineer offense was the defense may have been even better. Jeff Casteel’s unit surrendered just 139 total yards to the Pirates, most of which came late in the game against the West Virginia reserves. ECU converted just two of its 10 third down chances, and constantly found itself in third and long situations.
“This was the best overall performance we have had in several years,” Rodriguez said. “I’m looking forward to watching the film and seeing where we can improve.”
East Carolina (1-3) managed just 29 yards of total offense in the first half, marking the fewest yards the Pirates have amassed in a half in the Skip Holtz era. The 27-0 halftime score was the biggest halftime deficit ECU has faced since trailing 35-0 at the break against Southern Mississippi in 2004.
Eric Wicks and Mortty Ivy recorded six tackles and a sack to lead the West Virginia effort defensively. Ivy had a gorgeous interception of a Patrick Pinkney pass in the first half when he stepped in front of an ECU receiver in the flat while staying in bounds to secure the pick.
“I think the defense has more confidence from the Maryland game and today’s win,” Rodriguez said. “ECU has some great players and I know we wanted the shutout but we did very well.”
The Mountaineers were able to play a lot of younger players in the game on both sides of the ball. Twenty seven players recorded at least one tackle.
In the fourth quarter, White and Slaton gave way to Jarrett Brown, Noel Devine and Ed Collington. Brown once again proved more than capable of moving the offense, carrying six times for 83 yards and completing four of five passes for 21 yards.
Collington ran hard in the fourth quarter, rushing for 47 yards while picking up 9.4 yards per carry.
WVU improves to 17-2 all-time in the series against ECU.
West Virginia returns to action next Friday when they travel to Tampa, Fla., to take on No.23 USF in the Big East opener for both schools. Kickoff at Raymond James Stadium is set for 8 p.m.
“I asked them who was next and they knew,” Rodriguez joked. “It’s a conference game and the guys are anxious to start BIG EAST play and USF is a really good football team."
WV - McAfee 31 FG
RUSHING: ECU - Johnson 14-76, Whitley 4-29, Harris 2-9, Kass 1-7, Lindsay 4-6, Williams 1-4, Pinkney 7-minus 25, Total 33-106; WV - Slaton 18-110, Brown 6-82, Reynaud 2-58, Collington 5-47, White 9-42, Schmitt 4-32, Sanders 3-15, Devine 7-11, Total 54-397.
PASSING: ECU - Pinkney 7-14-1-43-0, Kass 2-3-0-11-0, Harris 0-1-0-0-0, Total 9-18-1-54-0; WV - White 18-20-0-181-2, Brown 4-5-0-21-0, Total 22-25-0-202-2.
RECEIVING: ECU - Johnson 3-13, Harris 2-8, Lee 1-12, Lindsay 1-9, Bryant 1-7, Drew 1-5, Total 9-54; WV - Hogan 6-44, Reynaud 5-54, Slaton 3-42, Jalloh 3-29, Schmitt 2-9, Gonzales 1-11, Devine 1-7, Sanders 1-6, Total 22-202.
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