By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
October 7, 2006
Steve Slaton ran for 185 yards and scored a touchdown and quarterback Patrick White ran for a pair of scores to lead No. 4-rated West Virginia to a 42-14 victory over Mississippi State Saturday afternoon in Starkville.
West Virginia (5-0) overcame a ridiculous 11 penalties for 134 yards in a game that was lot closer than the scoreboard indicated. The Mountaineers led just 21-7 heading into the fourth quarter and got a pair of scores to pull away late.
Despite a victory that should move West Virginia up another spot in the polls after No. 2 Auburn lost to Arkansas earlier today, an agitated Mountaineer coach Rich Rodriguez could only think about all of the yellow hankies laying on the field. WVU actually had one more penalty (11) than pass attempts (10).
“I’m disgusted with the penalties and I’m not very happy right now,” Rodriguez said. “I’m happy with the win beating an SEC team on the road and we had some guys play outstanding, but we had other guys that just don’t get it. They were not playing West Virginia football and it’s going to get corrected.”
The WVU defense also made up for its sack-less four-game stretch to begin the season by hauling down Mississippi State quarterbacks six times for the afternoon. It was about the only thing Rodriguez found to his liking from a defense that committed several puzzling personal fouls to keep Bulldog drives alive.
“The frustrating part is we had a lot of stops on defense and then have stupid penalty on third down and let them get a first down,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know how many times that happened? It’s crazy. We’re going to get that fixed if I have to move 20 guys from offense to the other side of the ball that will play football the right way.”
West Virginia got on the board first after a missed Mississippi State field goal try. Fullback Owen Schmitt capped off a five-play, 68-yard drive with a five-yard TD run – the first of two TD runs for the junior on Saturday.
The Mountaineers added another score on its second possession with 14:12 left in the second quarter when White rolled out to his left and kept the football for a six-yard TD.
That scoring drive covered 75 yards in eight plays.
Mississippi State (1-5) got on the board with 1:01 left in the half when Omarr Conner found Tony Burks down the middle of the field for a 40-yard touchdown. Conner set up the scoring play with a scrambling 30-yard pass to Tyle Threadgill that moved the ball to the WVU 30.
Leading just 14-7 at the break, West Virginia took control of the game with its opening drive of the second half, covering 80 yards in 10 plays. Slaton scored his seventh touchdown of the season by going 11 yards untouched into the end zone.
The Bulldogs had two excellent scoring opportunities end in interceptions. Mississippi State’s first crack at reducing West Virginia’s lead was thwarted when Eric Wicks pounced on a tipped pass in the end zone. Mississippi State’s second try in WVU territory also ended with an interception when backup quarterback Matt Henig’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and linebacker Bobby Hathaway came down with the football. He returned the ball 29 yards to the Mississippi State 39.
“We had a couple of chances earlier to get turnovers and we didn’t but it was good to get those interceptions – thank God they were tipped balls because we can’t make an interception when it’s thrown without being tipped,” Rodriguez said.
Four plays later on third and six, White zig-zagged his way through the Bulldog defense for a pretty 46-yard touchdown run. The touchdown and Pat McAfee’s PAT gave West Virginia a 28-7 lead.
“Pat White understands the game of football as well as any quarterback I’ve ever had,” Rodriguez said. “I’m talking about understanding the situation and knowing where the first-down markers are. People say we don’t throw much … it isn’t because of Pat White. He can make all of the throws and he competes. That’s the best thing about him is he competes on every snap.”
After a Mississippi State touchdown got the Bulldogs to within 14 points with 3:02 remaining in the fourth quarter, West Virginia added two late scores. Schmitt tallied his second touchdown of the game from five yards out with 2:25 left and Vaughn Rivers returned a punt 50 yards for a TD with 1:07 remaining.
Rodriguez thought there were more points left out on the field.
“Part of our game plan, particularly on a nice day like this, is tempo: controlling the tempo and getting the other team tired,” Rodriguez said. “Every time we scored their defense got a chance to rest because they were standing on the sidelines for another 10 or 15 minutes.
“We never really had a chance to establish our tempo because the defense couldn’t get off the field,” Rodriguez said.
West Virginia ran 44 times for 314 yards against a Mississippi State run defense that was permitting just 104.6 yards per game. Slaton got his 185 yards on 26 carries.
“He ran hard; he had some nice runs and some big plays,” said Rodriguez. “Guys up front did a good job.”
White had 76 yards on 11 carries to go with a 6-for-10-for-92-yard passing performance.
“They’ve been pretty good against the run against some pretty good teams and it was important for us to establish the run,” Rodriguez said. “We just ran our system: we didn’t do anything fancy.”
Conner completed 10 of 19 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with a leg injury with 6:42 remaining in the third quarter.
Tony Burks caught five passes for 118 yards and a touchdown.
The West Virginia defense held Mississippi State to only 56 yards rushing on 37 carries.
The Mountaineers open Big East Conference play next Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium against Syracuse. The homecoming game is set to start at noon. The Orangemen lost at home to Pitt in their Big East opener earlier today.
“We’ve got 24 hours and then we start defending our Big East championship,” Rodriguez said. “Those guys are going to play the way they are supposed to.”
WV – Schmitt 5 run (McAfee kick)
RUSHING: WV -- Slaton 26-185, White 11-76, Schmitt 6-28, Reynaud 1-25, Total 44-314; MSU -- Stallworth 9-44, Thornton 4-19, Dixon 9-15, Williams 2-13, Long 1-minus 1, Henig 1-minus 3, Conner 9-minus 8, Rutland 1-minus 8, Evans 1-minus 11, Total 37-56.
PASSING: WV -- White 6-9-0-92-0; MSU -- Conner 10-19-0-135-1, Henig 7-15-2-115-0, Rutland 0-1-0-0-0, Total 17-35-2-250-1.
RECEIVING: WV -- Reynaud 2-41, Myles 2-28, Slaton 2-23, Total 6-92; MSU -- Burks 4-118, Long 4-22, Smith 2-31, Prosser 2-26, Butler 1-20, Husband 1-17, Davis 1-9, Thornton 1-7, Stallworth 1-0, Total 17-250.
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