(Saturday, October 24th)
Final Score: (22) West Virginia 28, Connecticut 24
Morgantown, WV (Sports Network) - Noel Devine ran for 178 yards on 23 carries and broke off a go-ahead 56-yard scoring run late in the fourth quarter, as No. 22 West Virginia overcame an inspired effort from the Connecticut Huskies to post a 28-24 win in a key Big East matchup, overshadowed by the tragic stabbing death last weekend of UConn junior cornerback Jasper Howard.
Jarrett Brown, labeled a game-time decision during the week while dealing with a concussion, started under center and was 16-of-27 for 153 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also scored on the ground, rushing ten times for 41 yards.
Jock Sanders hauled in eight receptions for 81 yards for the Mountaineers (6-1, 2-0 Big East), who have won four straight since their lone loss of the season September 19 to Auburn.
UConn's Cody Endres ended 25-of-41 for a career-best 378 yards with a pair of touchdown passes, but threw three picks in the second half to derail the offense.
The explosive rushing tandem of Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon combined for 132 yards on the ground, with Todman doing most of the damage -- scoring once on 20 carries for 94 yards.
Marcus Easley caught five balls for 157 yards and a TD, while Kashif Moore reeled in four receptions for 62 yards and a score for UConn (4-3, 1-2), which scored a 38-25 victory over Louisville last weekend.
A day after the win, the University of Connecticut suffered a grave loss when Howard was killed in an on-campus stabbing at a school-sanctioned dance.
"They came out today and played this game, every play like it was the last play they were ever going to play," said UConn coach Randy Edsall. "I think they came out today and honored their teammate, Jasper Howard, in the right way. We just came up a little bit short."
The Huskies emerged from the tunnel at Milan Puskar Stadium Saturday carrying Howard's jersey and helmet. The fans and a classy West Virginia squad gave the team a standing ovation and held signs adorning Howard's No. 6. Both teams observed a moment of silence after which time the teams greeted one another at midfield.
West Virginia University president James P. Clements and Board of Governors chairwoman Carolyn Long issued a joint statement addressing the circumstances surrounding the game.
"On behalf of the WVU family, we want to congratulate the UConn team and coaches for a spirited and courageous game played under very difficult circumstances. We also want to thank our team and fans for their generous support of the Husky team.
"The cheers when the opposing team took - and left - the field, the moment of silence, the pins, the armbands and the overwhelming show of respect throughout the game were fine emblems of the solidarity of the Mountaineer community.
"Our fans, always passionate and loyal, wanted to win this game. But they understood that today was a tough and sad day for our opponents. So while our hearts were with the Mountaineers to win the game, they were also with our visitors, whose hearts were broken when cornerback Jasper Howard lost his life in such a tragic way last weekend."
After WVU took a 21-17 lead in the closing minutes of the third quarter, a wild final frame unfolded.
Endres was picked off on the ensuing drive, but the Huskies' defense held and regained possession early in the fourth, moving into field goal range. Dave Teggart, though, missed his second field goal of the game from 45 yards.
WVU punted back to UConn but Endres was picked again. Kent Richardson returned it 47 yards to the UConn 10 but was stripped of the ball and the Huskies began a new drive with five minutes to play. Three plays later on 3rd-and-8, Endres found Easley in the middle of the field and the senior wideout outran three WVU defenders 88 yards to the end zone for a 24-21 advantage.
A little less than four minutes remained, though, allowing the speedster Devine to explode up the right sideline for a 56-yard scoring run to give the Mountaineers a 28-24 lead with 2:10 on the clock.
UConn got a big return of 31 yards from Robbie Frey on the ensuing kickoff. With the clock winding down, Endres appeared to gain a large chunk of yardage with a pass to tight end Ryan Griffin on second down in WVU territory, but the pass was dropped and Endres was hit as he threw on fourth down resulting in a game-ending interception.
West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart remarked during the week how difficult it would be to get his team ready for football with the tragedy of a loss of life looming large. The Mountaineers must have got the message as Tavon Austin returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.
UConn responded in the latter stages of the first half with a 67-yard scoring drive in nine plays with Todman finding running room around the left side for a five-yard TD. Brown was intercepted following the Huskies' score and Teggart later added a 38-yard field goal for a 10-7 UConn lead late in the second quarter.
The Mountaineer offense struggled mightily throughout the first half, failing to cross into UConn territory until the final two minutes before halftime.
Starting from its own 19, Brown and WVU got on track with a 23-yard completion to Alric Arnett gaining the UConn 42. Brown then hit Sanders for 31 yards and a fresh set of downs at the 11. A holding penalty set them back 10 yards but a 13-yard completion to Devine brought the ball inside the 10 and Brown ran it in for a five-yard score on 3rd-and-4 for a 14-10 edge.
WVU left just 48 seconds on the clock but Frey returned the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to the Mountaineer 42. Endres worked quickly in hitting Easley for 16 yards and then found Moore across the middle for a 17-yard TD. The three-play drive took just 28 seconds and allowed UConn a 17-14 lead at the break.
The Huskies drove down to the WVU 10 to open the second half but Teggart missed wide left on a 27-yarder. Tyler Bitancurt then missed a 42-yard kick for the hosts, but the Mountaineers recovered a Todman fumble a short time later at their own 34.
Devine ripped off a 63-yard run up the left sideline to the one and two plays later Brown found Tyler Urban in the back of the end zone for a two-yard score and a 21-17 lead with less than three minutes to go in the third.
West Virginia remains undefeated against UConn in Big East games going 6-0 since 2002...Arnett finished with five grabs for 51 yards for West Virginia, which was 8-for-16 on third down and won despite losing the time of possession battle and being outgained 501-387...Connecticut was 7-of-18 on third down and dropped the all-important turnover battle 4-2...The Mountaineers travel to take on South Florida next weekend while the Huskies host Rutgers...Devine rushed for more than 100 yards for the 13th time in his career and fifth time this season. WVU is now 11-2 when he rushes for at least 100 yards...WVU has out-rushed its opponents in 50 of the last 53 games. The Mountaineers are 44-9 in those games...Frey ended the game with a career best 136 kickoff return yards.
10/24 21:14:40 ET