WVU 35, Rutgers 14 - Early Game Story

Written by Colin Dunlap on .


West Virginia held up its end of the bargain.

Now the Mountaineers are left to wait and see what happens Saturday night.

The Mountaineers claimed a 35-14 victory against Rutgers (4-8, 1-6) at Mountaineer Field this afternoon with another solid defensive effort.

With the win, No. 23 West Virginia (9-3, 5-2) secured at least a share of the Big East conference title and could capture the BCS Bowl bid from the league with a victory tonight by South Florida against Connecticut in Tampa. If South Florida wins, the Mountaineers will head to the Fiesta or Orange Bowl.

But, if Connecticut beats South Florida tonight, the Huskies will be the BCS representative from the Big East, leaving the Mountaineers to play in the Champs Sports Bowl or Meineke Car Care Bowl.

As for the West Virginia victory against Rutgers today, it secured the third consecutive nine-win season for third-year head coach Bill Stewart.

West Virginia couldn't get out of its own way, or the Mountaineers probably would have defeated Rutgers by a wider margin. In the first three quarters, West Virginia fumbled three times inside the Rutgers 13, adding to the red zone troubles the squad has had this season.

The fumbling problems of big-bodied running back Ryan Clarke --- which have been a dilemma all season --- put an end to West Virginia's initial drive when it appeared the Mountaineers would score an early touchdown. West Virginia drove to the Rutgers 6 before Clarke fumbled the football away to the Scarlet Knights.

The Mountaineers, however, scored on their second possession when Tavon Austin pulled in a screen in the flat and ripped down the sideline for 19 yards to put WVU ahead, 7-0.

Clarke made amends on the first play of the second quarter when he lunged in from the 1 to give West Virginia a 14-0 lead.

But the Scarlet Knights cut the deficit in half with 2:52 before halftime when Jordan Thomas caught a wide open pass from 18 yards from quarterback Chas Dodd to make it 14-7.

A blocked field goal by Rutgers late in the second quarter kept the West Virginia lead from advancing into halftime. It was the fourth time West Virginia kicker Tyler Bitancurt had a field goal attempt blocked this season.

Clarke scored on another short run, bashing in from the 1 midway through the third quarter to advance the Mountaineers to 21-7.

That was his second.

Early in the fourth quarter came Austin's, when he zoomed through the heart of the Rutgers defense on a 46-yard scoring run.

From there, the Mountaineers sailed home.

West Virginia went through the 12-game regular season accomplishing a remarkable defensive feat, as the Mountaineers were the lone team in the country that did not allow any opponent to score more than 21 points in any game.

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