West Virginia 41 … at Rutgers 31

Posted Oct 29, 2011

Week 9 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - West Virginia at Rutgers

2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 9 - West Virginia at Rutgers

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Oct. 29 West Virginia 41 … at Rutgers 31
CFN Analysis: The Mountaineers like to play with fire. They couldn't rally and come back against Syracuse last week, but they were able to roll for 20 points in the second half against Rutgers to keep Big East title hopes alive. The defense that struggled so much in the first half was terrific in the second, finishing with four takeaways while shutting down and shutting out the Scarlet Knights late. Geno Smith wasn't his normal bombs-away self, but he didn't throw any picks and he came up with the big rushing touchdown late in the clutch. Syracuse didn't expose the Mountaineers, but Rutgers almost did. Louisville is starting to play just well enough to pull off the upset next week, but it won't happen if the WVU offense can put together a full sixty minutes. The pass rush continues to be a problem, but as long as the offense is doing its job, the defense's job is to not screw up. Over the last two weeks, it hasn't exactly been tight.

Rutgers played inspired in the first half with all the parts working and the offense playing as well as it had in weeks. Jawan Jamison was ripping off big runs, and Gary Nova spread the ball around well. And then the turnovers started coming. The four giveaways helped spring West Virginia's offense, which was almost perfectly balanced and opportunistic. The defense had its chances to come up with stops late to pull off the win, but the Mountaineers made the plays. Nova has to be more consistent, completing just 18-of-46 passes in the snow, and he has to be more efficient. This is a young and improving team, but this is a second straight game a more experienced squad would've come up with – losing a tight battle with Louisville two weeks ago. With South Florida and its athletic defense up next, Nova has to be more accurate.

(AP) PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Down by three and faced with a fourth-and-goal from the 1 on a miserable wet, snowy day, first-year West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen didn't hesitate.

The No. 25 Mountaineers were going for the lead and putting the ball and possibly their Big East title hopes in what might be their last year in the conference in the hands of quarterback Geno Smith.

Smith didn't run the play as called, but the junior improvised well enough and made a headfirst dive into the end zone on a scamper around right end as West Virginia rallied for a 41-31 victory over Rutgers on Saturday.

"I just made a decision," Holgorsen said, noting that his defense played so well in the second half in shutting out the Scarlet Knights (5-3, 2-2) that he felt the unit would get the ball back for him even if Smith had been stopped.

Smith, who threw two second-half touchdowns to help West Virginia (6-2, 2-1 Big East) post its 17th straight win over Rutgers, made sure the play worked. It was a play-action design that had worked in other games, but Holgorsen said Smith hesitated making the throw.

"It was just me and the safety and I had to beat him to the goal line," Smith said, who was 20 of 31 for 218 yards, including TDs throws of 19 yards to Stedman Bailey and 20 to Tavon Austin, who had eight catches for 67 yards.

"It's 11 guys out there on the field battling for you and I wanted to be the guy to make that touchdown because my teammates did a great job of taking me out of bad situations for the most part throughout the game."

Austin also scored on an 80-yard run and Shawne Alston scored on runs of 52 and 2 yards for West Virginia, which earlier this week announced its intention to leave the Big East and join the Big 12 next season.

"This is our last year playing in the Big East," linebacker Najee Goode said. "I told the guys we are playing Rutgers for the last time and we have go out, this is what people are going to remember, when they think back who were the last Big East champs was, we want it to be us."

Freshman Gary Nova threw two touchdown passes for the Scarlet Knights and Jawan Jamison scored on runs of 1 and 18 yards for the Scarlet Knights, who were blanked in the second half after putting up a season-high for points in the opening half.

"Credit goes to West Virginia. They found a way to get it done. We didn't," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "We will eventually -- it has been a long road. We will get it. There are good people downstairs in that room -- hurting people, good people. We will go back to work. We will get better."

Nova finished 18 of 46 for 235 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions as the Scarlet Knights lost their second straight.

The game turned on a fake field goal by Rutgers early in the fourth quarter.

Leading 31-28, the Scarlet Knights drove to the West Virginia 11. On fourth-and-7, Schiano decided to fake a 28-yard field goal attempt. Holder Pat Kivlehan had receiver Brandon Coleman open in the end zone for a split second but Darwin Cook hustled back and broke up the pass as it hit Coleman's hands.

"I thought it was (the right play)," Schiano said.

On the ensuing series, Smith led the Mountaineers on an 89-yard touchdown drive, hitting Bailey for 32 yards to get the drive going and Brad Starks for 23 to get a first-and-goal at the 8.

Dustin Garrison gained 3 yards on first down and Alston got 4 on second to put the ball at the 1. Alston was stuffed on a third-down run and then Smith took the snap in the shotgun, looked for a receiver and then took off around right end, diving headfirst for the score and a 34-31 lead. West Virginia missed the extra point.

"He did what a quarterback does," Starks said of Smith. "He led us to victory."

The ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, giving Rutgers the ball at its own 40. However, Nova lost control of the ball on a second down pass attempt and Julian Miller recovered his second fumble of the game at the Rutgers 37.

Three plays later, Smith found Austin along the left sideline and the Mountaineers continued their dominance of Rutgers, a team that the Scarlet Knights won't be sad to see leave the conference.

Before the game paralyzed former Rutgers player Eric LeGrand lead the Scarlet Knights on the field. He was hurt last October in a game against Army and this was his first time back on the sideline for a game.

The contest was played in horrible conditions as a nor'easter caused strong winds and a mixture of rain and blowing snow. Trucks with snow plows cleaned the field every chance they got, but there were times the yard-line numbers were not visible.

Footing was treacherous and the inclement conditions forced many fans to stay at home. As night fell in the second half there seemed to be no more than 5,000 people in the stands, with the biggest contingent being the Rutgers band.

Those who stayed home missed a lot of excitement as the teams turned in big play after big play on both sides of the ball in the first half. It led to six lead changes and Rutgers left the field ahead 31-21.

West Virginia (5-2) at Rutgers (5-2) Oct. 29, 3:30, ABC

Here's The Deal … In the mixed up world of the Big East, West Virginia and Rutgers tumbled from the league driver's seat … within a few minutes of one another on Friday night. The Mountaineers, a considerable favorite to win the conference flag, got embarrassed by Syracuse, 49-23. It was a rather curious and unexpected performance from a team that looked as if it was beginning to peak before arriving in the Carrier Dome.

Generously still ranked in the major polls, West Virginia will need to turn things around in a hurry in order to remain there. The Scarlet Knights appeared to be living a lie even before getting to Papa John's Stadium a week ago. Yeah, they'd only lost one game, a two-pointer to North Carolina in Chapel Hill, but the overall body of work left a lot to be desired. Now, Rutgers is staring at a fork in the road, and a familiar nemesis that's haunted it over the years. If the Knights are going to rebound quickly, they'll need to do it against a school that's defeated them 16 straight times.

Why West Virginia Might Win: Chalk up last week to an anomaly, an off week not likely to be repeated again in 2011. Heck, the Mountaineers played better versus top-ranked LSU in September than it did against Syracuse last week. With something to prove, the speedy West Virginia defense ought to frustrate Rutgers much the way Louisville did a week ago.

The Knights are 112th nationally at running the ball, and led by inconsistent rookie QB Gary Nova. The ‘eers will look to unleash DE Bruce Irvin around the edge in an effort to force Nova into mistakes. Plus, CB Keith Tandy is capable of neutralizing Rutgers' best weapon, WR Mohamed Sanu.

Why Rutgers Might Win: Yeah, the Mountaineers have far more offensive firepower than this week's host, but the Scarlet Knights have silencing opposing teams all year. The defense leads the Big East in scoring, allowing only 16 points per game. And the pass defense has been air tight, picking off three times as many passes as touchdowns allowed.

Greg Schiano and his staff are getting contributions up and down the roster, from DT Scott Vallone and linebackers Steve Beauharnais and Khaseem Greene in the front seven to David Rowe and Logan Ryan in the secondary. After playing one of its worst games of the season, life doesn't get any easier for the West Virginia offense.

What To Watch Out For: Can the West Virginia offense get back on track in chilly Piscataway after playing miserably indoors last week? The offensive line did a poor job of blocking the Orange, stifling the ability of QB Geno Smith and RB Dustin Garrison. The Mountaineers have too many playmakers to remain in neutral much longer. Just a week earlier, they had their way with Connecticut, cranking out 541 total yards and five touchdowns. West Virginia needs to relocate that pop in order to get back on track, and remain in the hunt for a Big East championship.

What Will Happen: No spoiler alert is necessary when West Virginia meets Rutgers. It's been a weird year already in the Big East, but no trends will be broken when these two meet on Saturday afternoon. While both will be seeking bounce back efforts, the Mountaineers actually have the athletes to deliver it. Having been dressed down all week by the coaching staff, the offense will help restore the order with a smattering of big plays from the arm of Smith and the legs of Garrison. Smith will spread the ball around to his preferred targets, Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and Ivan McCartney, taking this game to a place where the Scarlet Knights offense will not be able to keep pace.

CFN Prediction: West Virginia 30 … Rutgers 20
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: West Virginia -7   O/U: 53.5

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