West Virginia gets by Colorado, 35-24

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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- West Virginia didn't do this, and it didn't do that. Then, it failed to do this and came up short doing something else.

Not such a wonderful recipe for a win, is it?

Crazy as it seems, the formula has worked for a win three times in four tries this season.

Last night, it happened again as West Virginia (3-1) churned out a 35-24 victory against visiting Colorado (1-3) in a nationally televised game at sold-out Mountaineer Field.

There was the bad: The Mountaineers turned the ball over four times in the first half, picking up right where they left off in a loss at Auburn, when they handed the Tigers the ball six times.

The offensive line was iffy, and the secondary had a tough time lassoing Colorado receiver Scotty McKnight and tight end Riar Geer, who pulled in a combined 17 passes for 211 yards off quarterback Cody Hawkins' right arm.

But, as those inadequacies were glaring, so, too, was this: West Virginia running back Noel Devine's ability to get to the edge, dance by someone and get going north and south in a way he never has as a Mountaineer.

The tiny Floridian took the game over, rushing for a career-high 220 yards on 22 carries and giving a sputtering offense something it could lean on.

"I got a little frustrated with the pass protection, and it was on me, I was trying to wheel-it and deal-it and throw it deep," West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said.

"So I said, 'Let's just put the ball in No. 7's hands and win a football game.' "

Devine's previous career high was 207 yards, also on a Thursday night ESPN telecast victory against Auburn last year.

Early on, West Virginia again would not get out of its own way.

After Devine ripped off a 77-yard touchdown run through the left side on the second play of the game, and Rodney Stewart tied it for Colorado on the next drive, going 36 yards, the Mountaineers started to turn the ball over.

West Virginia came into the game with 10 turnovers and had forced three. They made that disparity even worse in the first half, handing away four fumbles.

Quarterback Jarrett Brown and receiver Bradley Starks lost fumbles in the first quarter; receiver Jock Sanders lost one in the second quarter.

Even when they got a takeaway, the Mountaineers could not hold onto it as linebacker J.T. Thomas pulled down an interception on a second-quarter play, only to give it back to Colorado as he tried to return the ball and fumbled.

The only team with more turnovers than the Mountaineers' 14 is Miami of Ohio, which has 16, is 0-4 and has been outscored, 167-45.

"We have got to do something about the turnovers," Stewart said. "If we don't take care of the turnovers, if we don't take care of the football, it is not going to be a banner year for us."

Good thing for West Virginia that Colorado had first-half woes of its own, with kicker Aric Goodman -- who made the winner against the Mountaineers in overtime last year -- missing field goals of 40 and 45 yards. Furthermore, the Buffaloes scored just 3 points off the West Virginia turnovers.

"Bottom line, could we have won the football game? Sure," Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said.

"I think you have to leave it at that. ... I think our guys are starting to figure out what it takes to compete at that level.

"I think they can, it just needs to be cleaner."

But for Colorado, it just wasn't clean enough.

NOTES -- For the second consecutive game, defensive lineman Scooter Berry (shoulder) did not play after being injured in the East Carolina game Sept. 12. Linebacker Reed Williams (foot) returned for the first time last night since being injured in the same game. ... Former West Virginia quarterback, Brashear High School graduate and Hill District native Major Harris, was honored during the game for his upcoming enshrinement into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Colin Dunlap can be reached at cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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