By Christopher Marshall for MSNsportsNET.com
September 14, 2006
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Steve Slaton ran 195 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns to lead No. 5 West Virginia to 45-24 victory over Maryland Thursday night at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers (3-0) received the opening kickoff and five plays later was in the end zone when Slaton scampered 38 yards up the far sideline.
Maryland return man Josh Wilson fumbled the ensuing kickoff on a botched reverse attempt and redshirt freshman Ovid Goulbourne recovered it at the Terrapin 11-yard line. From there, quarterback Patrick White hit Darius Reynaud over the middle of the end zone and Maryland was in a 14-0 hole less than five minutes into the game.
After stopping the Terrapins on six plays and taking over at their own four yard line the field position hole proved no problem for the powerful Mountaineer offense as they drove 96 yards on 10 plays. Slaton capped the drive with a brilliant 37-yard run, cutting and stutter-stepping past Maryland defenders to give WVU a 21-0 lead with 2:53 left in the first quarter.
“It was evident in the first half that we have a pretty fast team. Steve made some big-big runs that set the tone for us early,” West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said.
Things only got worse for the Terrapins. On the third play of their next drive Eric Wicks came off the edge to hit Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach just as he released the ball. Linebacker Jay Henry made an acrobatic interception to give the Mountaineers the ball back at the WVU 46 yard line. From there, a 52-yard run by Slaton to the Maryland two yard line set up the Mountaineers next score.
On the next play Slaton fumbled the ball forward into the end zone, where tight end Brad Palmer fell on the lose ball giving the Mountaineers had a commanding 28-0 lead with still 1:05 left to go in the first quarter.
“This was not the greatest way to start the game. Everything that could go wrong did. A lot of our kids were star struck between the hype and the national television. It happens but they need to get over that,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said.
Maryland (2-1) got on the board on their next possession using 15 plays to cover 80 yards. Hollenbach hit a wide open tight end Joey Haynos in the left flat to cut the deficit to 28-7 with 9:26 left in the first half.
After Maryland added a Dan Ennis field goal to cut the Mountaineer lead to 31-10 with 49 seconds before the break, fans headed to the concession stands pleased with a 21-point halftime lead. However, those that left their seats missed a memorable play as Reynaud received the Maryland kickoff, dropped the ball at the WVU four, recovered it, and raced untouched 96 yards for West Virginia’s fifth TD of the half.
The Terrapins refused to play dead in the second half, scoring after the teams traded turnovers to start the third quarter. Lance Ball raced into the end zone from 11 yards out to cut the deficit to 38-17. Friedgen was pleased with his team’s second half effort.
“Our kids really hung in there and didn’t quit,” Friedgen said. “I’m proud they didn’t fall in the second half.”
The Mountaineers added their final score of the day when White capped a seven-play, 90-yard dive with a one-yard bootleg run on fourth down to give WVU a 45-17 lead with 4:03 left in the third quarter.
Maryland closed the scoring in the fourth quarter when Hollenbach’s 35-yard pass deflected off of two Mountaineer defenders and into the hands of Isaiah Williams for his second passing TD of the night.
For the game, West Virginia rolled up 340 rushing yards on 43 attempts for an impressive 7.9 yards-per-carry average.
Maryland running backs Ball and Keon Lattimore were held to a combined 92 yards on 27 carries. Hollenbach completed 24 of 45 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns to go with two interceptions.
The Mountaineers had a plus-four turnover margin after forcing just two turnovers in their first two wins against Marshall and Eastern Washington.
Rodriguez says Mountaineer Field becomes an electric place when the sun goes down; West Virginia is 9-0 in night games under the sixth-year coach.
“We talked about it in last night’s meeting, nighttime and West Virginia football have been pretty special,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez downplayed the hype and the emphasis for margin of victory being placed on his team.
“I have said earlier, I just want to win,” he noted. “Everybody is worried about scores, but if you get the wins, the rest will take care of itself. Believe me, if we win every game by one point, I’ll be very happy at the end of the year.”
The Mountaineers return to action on Saturday, Sept. 23, when they travel to Greenville, N.C. to take on the East Carolina Pirates. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN2. Kick-off at Dowdey-Ficklen Stadium is set for 4:30 p.m.
WV – Slaton 38 run (McAfee kick)
RUSHING: MD -- Ball 12-50, Lattimore 15-42, Oquendo 1-21, Hollenbach 2-7, Allen 2-6, Haeyward-Bey 1-minus 4, Total 33-122; WV -- Slaton 21-195, White 12-85, Schmitt 8-55, Reynaud 1-6, Team 1-minus 1, Palmer 0-0, Total 43-340.
PASSING: MD -- Hollenbach 24-45-2-211-2; WV -- White 6-9-0-43-1.
RECEIVING: MD -- Haynos 8-51, Heyward-Bey 5-49, Williams 4-53, Oquendo 3-40, Ball 2-12, Lattimore 2-6, Total 24-211; WV -- Reynaud 4-28, Myles 1-12, Schmitt 1-3, Total 6-43.
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