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WVU stays atop Big East with win

Paul Schofield
| Sunday, Oct. 31, 2004

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- West Virginia's victory over Rutgers was about as pretty as the weather in New Jersey Saturday afternoon. It was ugly.

Under foggy, gray skies, No. 15 West Virginia stayed perfect in the Big East Conference, surviving a scare from Rutgers by holding on for a 35-30 victory.

Two touchdown early in the fourth quarter helped the Mountaineers build a 35-17 lead before the never-say-die Scarlet Knights put a scare in the Gold and Blue.

"We didn't execute well and we looked like a poorly coached team at times," West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. "I knew we'd take a great shot from them. We were lucky to get the win."

The Mountaineers won despite losing its biggest offensive threat to an ejection, not having its best defensive player who left with an injury, and committing 11 penalties for 107 yards.

"I'm embarrassed by the penalties and lack of discipline," Rodriguez said. "Our tackling was atrocious. We didn't get any pressure on the quarterback, and we didn't cover well in the secondary."

West Virginia improved to 7-1 overall and 3-0 in the conference, and it got touchdowns from five different players. They survived a solid performance from Rutgers quarterback Ryan Hart, who completed 35 of 46 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns.

The Scarlet Knights fell to 4-4 and 1-3.

But the game turned late in the third quarter when West Virginia defensive Keilen Dykes sacked Hart for a 10-yard loss that stopped a Rutgers' drive. The Mountaineers were leading 21-17 at the time Dykes made his play.

"I was coached in high school to look for the bootleg from the quarterback," Dykes said. "I didn't over run the play. It was the easiest sack I've had."

After the sack, Chris Henry came up with the game's two biggest offensive plays. His 69-yard reception from quarterback Rasheed Marshall set up a Marshall 4-yard touchdown pass to Miquelle Henderson for a 28-17 lead.

On the Mountaineers' next possession, Henry caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from Marshall for a 35-17 lead with 8:52 left. After the catch, Henry was ejected from the game after he received his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

With seemingly a comfortable lead for second time during the game, the Mountaineers did something unthinkable, they relaxed and it almost cost them.

Rutgers took advantage of a depleted secondary. Adam "Pac-Man" Jones left the game in the first half with a sprained right foot, Antonio Lewis missed the game with an ankle injury and Anthony Mims played sick.

"We were playing with a lot of different players in the secondary," West Virginia defensive back's coach Tony Gibson said. "Everyone who made the trip, played."

Hart hit tight end Clark Harris with a 3-yard scoring strike with 5:31 left, and running back Brian Leonard scored from 2 yards out with 1:22 left to trim to score to 35-30.

But Rutgers' onsides kick attempt went out of bounds, giving WVU the ball and the victory.

"We missed a lot of opportunities early," Rodriguez said. "It wasn't a very good performance by the Mountaineers. There is not a lot of joy in the locker room, because they know we escaped with a win."

Rodriguez said Marshall wasn't sharp, but he did battle and was a competitor. Marshall completed 9 of 13 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns, and he rushed for 79 yards and a score.

"Some how, some way, we're going to find a way to win these games," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "It was back and forth, and that's how a good, competitive game should be."

West Virginia started quickly, racing to a 14-0 lead by scoring on its first two possessions. Freshman Pernell Williams, who got his first start, scored on a 5-yard run, and Marshall scored on a 7-yard run.

Rutgers tied the score at 14-14 when Hart tossed a 27-yard score to Tres Moses and a 22-yard scoring strike to Marcus Daniels.

The Mountaineers reclaimed the lead 21-14 when Kay-Jay Harris scored on a 3-yard in the second quarter.

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