Grading the Mountaineers
West Virginia tailback Noel Devine rushed 92 yards for a touchdown with 4:16 remaining to make the Big East matchup a two-possession game and secure a 17-6 win for the Mountaineers on Saturday. Here's how the Mountaineers graded out:
The offense almost flunked, but receives a few sympathy points because quarterback Pat White sat out with a concussion. The collapse of the offense isn't completely the players' fault, though. You have to wonder why tailback Noel Devine had only 18 carries despite averaging 10.4 yards per touch. And with junior quarterback Jarrett Brown making just his second career start, Devine could have taken some pressure off Brown way before his 92-yard, game-winning touchdown run with 4:16 remaining. Brown averaged 2.2 yards per carry and was sacked twice.
The defense improved after it allowed Syracuse to cap a 16-play, 81-yard drive with a field goal on its first possession. Safety Quinton Andrews led West Virginia with nine tackles and LB Mortty Ivy had eight. WVU allowed Syracuse to take 25 more snaps on offense. Syracuse RB Curtis Brinkley ran for 144 yards on 28 carries and QB Cam Dantley completed 24 of 40 passes for 204 yards. However, WVU's defense in the red zone and on fourth down was impressive. Syracuse scored just once in three visits to the red zone, and the Orange were 0 for 3 on fourth-down conversions.
Special Teams, B+
West Virginia didn't give up any big returns, but the Mountaineers didn't have any of their own either. West Virginia senior Pat McAfee's kicking made for the only highlights. That's been the case for most of the season. McAfee had a busy afternoon, as he averaged 47 yards on seven punts. He also converted a 33-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. West Virginia's special-teams play has improved since a subpar performance against Marshall, but the big plays are still missing.