Injuries hamper senior season West Virginia's Devine


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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- This isn't about what Noel Devine hasn't done. It is far more about what he has done -- and has the possibility of doing against Rutgers.

Devine, the dynamic senior running back at West Virginia hasn't been so dynamic lately, as he has been hampered first by a toe injury and, more recently, by an ankle injury.

But he has one more game to play at Mountaineer Field on Senior Day when West Virginia (8-3, 4-2 Big East) faces the Scarlet Knights (4-7, 1-5) at noon Saturday.

On Tuesday evening, Devine answered reporters' questions for about 12 minutes for the first time since late September.

"Just keeping out of the spotlight," he said of why he had chosen not to speak to the media for so long. "I've been trying to get healthy."

Avoiding the spotlight has been nearly impossible for him in his career at West Virginia -- gaining 4,234 yards will do that for a back.

Looking ahead to the Rutgers game, Devine -- West Virginia's second all-time leading rusher -- understands all he has done, but also all he won't be able to do in his finale at Mountaineer Field because of those nagging injuries.

"I'm about 75-80 [percent]," Devine said. "It is just that initial burst that I need back."

It has been obvious that Devine, who has 853 yards rushing on 187 attempts, hasn't been himself for the better part of the year. He took a late hit out of bounds Sept. 25 against LSU and sustained a toe injury that still impedes him. In the first three games of the season, he carried the ball 23, 23 and 27 times. Since the LSU game, he has topped 23 just once.

Then, two weeks ago against Louisville, he tweaked his ankle.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano has seen the film on Devine and understands that the effect of Devine's injuries isn't a lack of production, but a lack of use.

"It is hard to tell," Schiano said of Devine's health. "He has not gotten the reps that I am used to seeing as I watch the tape.

"You don't see as many of his opportunities, so that, in and of itself, says a lot. There is something there that is keeping him from being on the field as much."

Nonetheless, Devine vowed, even in a weakened state, to be out there for this final home game Saturday. He also implored the fans to show up, as he has eyes on putting on a show -- with or without an unsteady wheel.

Schiano is a believer.

"I have known Noel Devine since he was a high school kid and I know exactly what he is capable of," Schiano said. "So regardless if I have seen a lot of him on tape [this season], I know this is the last time he is going to be playing at Mountaineer Field and I know that guy is an incredible competitor.

"He is going to want to leave there with a boom and our defense is going to need to be aware of that."

The Rutgers' defense also is going to need to be aware of Devine's chip-away nature as a back. He might take a step (or two) backward, but when he goes forward, he moves that direction in a big way.

"He reminds me, as I have said many times over the years, when I coached for the [Chicago] Bears, we coached against Barry Sanders," Schiano said. "Noel is very much in that kind of fashion, in that way he runs the ball.

"He will get a negative play, or a zero-yard gain or a 2-yard gain. Then he will get a 60-yard gain. That is what scares the heck out of you. I have the utmost respect for him. I have a funny feeling that, even if he's been hurting, come Saturday, he is going to be well for that last game down at Mountaineer Field."


Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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