Big Plays Lift WVU
By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
October 20, 2006
In the end Connecticut didn’t have an answer for West Virginia’s big-play offense. The Mountaineers scored three times on plays of at least 45 yards to beat the Huskies 37-11 Friday night in a Big East game at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn.
West Virginia quarterback Patrick White ran for a 45-yard touchdown and threw a 52-yard TD pass to Rayshawn Bolden, and Steve Slaton iced the game with a 56-yard TD run in the fourth quarter to help the Mountaineers boost their record to 7-0, 2-0. It was WVU’s 14th straight regular season victory eclipsing the school record of 13 straight wins established by the 1952-53 teams.
"It was a nice win," said West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez.
The Mountaineers have also won nine straight Big East contests dating back to 2004.
"The pleasing part tonight was even though we messed around the first couple of drives there was no panic on the sidelines and our guys knew what they had to do next," said Rodriguez.
White completed 9 of 14 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown and ran 15 times for 102 yards and a score.
"I probably should have called a couple of more passes earlier because they were obviously selling out against the run," Rodriguez said.
"Their corners were jumping down once they read run and our wide outs couldn't get to them and they hadn't done that all year," Rodriguez said. "We had the big pass play to Ray and the early pass play where we faked the bubble screen ... those were a couple of things we had answers for."
Connecticut (3-4) had Slaton bottled up for most of the game, holding the Heisman Trophy candidate to less than 50 yards through three quarters. But the sophomore was able to shake free of the Husky defense and race 56 yards down the far sideline for his ninth rushing TD of the season in the fourth quarter. It was the longest touchdown run of his career.
Slaton finished the game with 128 yards on 19 carries and reached the 1,000-yard barrier in just his seventh game – equaling Avon Cobourne (2002) and Amos Zereoue (1997) as the fastest WVU backs to reach 1,000 yards in a season. Slaton now shows 1,059 yards.
Bolden caught three passes for a career-high 95 yards against a Connecticut secondary keying on West Virginia’s No. 1-ranked rushing attack.
The Mountaineers finished with 263 yards rushing and 419 yards of total offense.
"They really had a little different scheme coming out than Syracuse did," Rodriguez said. "We had seen it before and it was a little similar to what East Carolina did against us the way they were playing their ends and their linebackers regarding our zone (runs).
"They were obviously keying everything toward Owen (Schmitt) being the blocker and Steve being the runner, but the ability of our quarterback to run as well as he does forces them to play a little more straight up," Rodriguez said.
Connecticut got its TD late in the game when backup quarterback D. J. Hernandez was able to reach the pylon on a fourth and four at the UConn five. The score was set up when Donta Moore picked off a White pass and returned it seven yards to the Mountaineer 25.
Connecticut starting quarterback Matt Bonislawski had an awful night against West Virginia’s defense, misfiring on his first seven passes and finishing the game 8 of 20 for 58 yards and an interception.
Hernandez completed 7 of 14 passes for 57 yards and he also threw a pick.
Linebacker Boo McLee and cornerback Vaughn Rivers collected the interceptions for West Virginia’s defense, which recorded three sacks, seven tackles for losses and held Connecticut to just 210 yards of total offense.
"I thought our defense made some big plays for us," Rodriguez said.
Sophomore linebacker Reed Williams was unofficially credited with nine tackles to lead the Mountaineers. WVU’s maligned third-down defense was able to hold Connecticut to just 4 of 15 on its third-down tries.
WVU kicker Pat McAfee was three of four on his field goal attempts, connecting on kicks of 38, 39 and 48 yards and missing a 40-yarder. McAfee’s 48-yard field goal was a career long.
Schmitt was the other WVU player to get into the scoring column with a one-yard TD run right before the end of the half.
Connecticut’s top ball carrier Terry Caulley was limited to just 35 yards on 13 carries; UConn’s No. 9-ranked ranked rushing offense managed only 95 yards on 33 carries. It was the fifth time this year West Virginia has held its opponent to less than 100 yards on the ground.
West Virginia led 20-3 at halftime.
The victory sets up the big Thursday night game against undefeated Louisville at Papa John’s Stadium on Nov. 2. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN.
Slaton also moved into eighth place on the WVU career rushing list with 2,187 yards.
WV -- McAfee 38 FG
RUSHING: WV -- Slaton 19-128, White 15-102, Bruce 4-16, Schmitt 3-13, Reyanud 1-4, Total 42-263; UC -- Caulley 13-35, Hernandez 8-29, Brown 4-23, Anderson 2-5, Allen 1-2, Bonislawski 5-1, Total 33-95.
PASSING: WV -- White 9-14-1-156-1; UC -- Bonislawski 8-20-1-58-0, Hernandez 7-14-1-57-0, Total 15-34-2-115-0.
RECEIVING: WV -- Bolden 3-95, Reynaud 3-24, Slaton 2-14, Myles 1-23, Total 9-156; UC -- Caulley 4-27, Kanuch 3-22, Murray 3-21, Young 2-19, Brown 1-10, Brouse 1-9, Anderson 1-7, Total 15-115.
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