(24) West Virginia 24

(9-3, 2-3 away)

Rutgers 21

(8-4, 4-3 home)

Coverage: ESPN

12:00 PM ET, December 5, 2009

High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ

1 2 3 4 T
#24WVU 14 0 7 324
RUTG 3 0 11 721

Top Performers

Passing: T. Savage (PITT) - 153 YDS, 1 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: N. Devine (WVU) - 16 CAR, 65 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: M. Sanu (RUTG) - 6 REC, 105 YDS, 1 TD

West Virginia-Rutgers Preview


A last-second win over its biggest rival offered West Virginia some consolation after being eliminated from the Big East title race, and also put it in position to play in a more prestigious bowl game if it can win its season finale.

Based on its history against Rutgers, that shouldn't be too difficult.

A trip to a New Year's Day bowl could be the 24th-ranked Mountaineers' reward if they can beat Rutgers for a 15th straight time Saturday afternoon in Piscataway, N.J.

West Virginia's hopes of being the Big East's Bowl Championship Series representative were dashed with a 24-21 loss at No. 5 Cincinnati on Nov. 13, its second conference defeat in three games.

The Mountaineers (8-3, 4-2) had a week off to regroup, and they did just that Nov. 27 against bitter rival Pittsburgh. Noel Devine ran for 134 yards -- including an 88-yard touchdown -- and Tyler Bitancurt's 43-yard field goal as time expired gave West Virginia a 19-16 win over the then-No. 8 Panthers.

"We're not as talented maybe as a lot of people and we don't win very pretty -- and we're going to try and work on that," coach Bill Stewart said, "but what we do seem to stumble through and bounce into and roll around in is that we find ways to win."

The Mountaineers are 7-0 in conference play during Devine's three-year career when he runs for at least 90 yards. He was held to 55 yards on 19 carries in their 24-17 win over the Scarlet Knights (8-3, 3-3) last season.

Pitt and Cincinnati will determine who is the conference's BCS representative at Heinz Field on Saturday at the same time West Virginia and Rutgers are playing, but a Mountaineers' victory in Piscataway could still pay major dividends.

West Virginia's five-year streak of playing in a January bowl game ended when it beat North Carolina 31-30 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 27, but it's considered likely to be headed to the Gator Bowl with a win -- particularly if the undefeated Bearcats can beat the Panthers.

The Mountaineers have played in the Gator Bowl six times and their fan base has historically traveled well to Jacksonville. They were most recently there Jan. 1, 2007, when Pat White's three touchdowns helped West Virginia beat Georgia Tech 38-35, but Stewart doesn't seem interested in speculation.

"It's the same thing I said last season -- let us get through game 12 before we worry about game 13," Stewart said. "I'm going to have to rely on our seniors to keep this bunch focused. We are playing Rutgers before we play in any bowl."

The Scarlet Knights could vault themselves into Gator Bowl consideration with a win over the Mountaineers, but that doesn't seem likely based on the series history. West Virginia is 30-4-2 all-time against Rutgers, winning the past 14 games by an average of 26.6 points.

The Scarlet Knights have won eight of 10 since a season-opening blowout loss against Cincinnati, and bounced back from their most puzzling loss of the season Friday against Louisville. A week after gaining a season-low 130 total yards in a 31-13 loss at Syracuse, Rutgers racked up 239 rushing yards in a 34-14 win at Louisville.

Freshman wideout Mohamed Sanu, taking snaps as part of the team's wildcat formation, ran for 148 yards -- 110 more than he entered the game with -- and two touchdowns.

"Mohamed is a really special talent," coach Greg Schiano said. "We keep expanding that little by little. You earn your touches around here, so we feel like Mohamed needs to keep getting the ball in his hands."

The Scarlet Knights' chances for their sixth nine-win regular season in 140 years may come down to the performance of another freshman. Quarterback Tom Savage had his worst game of the season (7 of 17 for 66 yards with two interceptions) in the loss at Syracuse, but responded by going 10 of 16 for 163 yards and two TDs -- one rushing -- in the win over the Cardinals.

"I really had to show the team that I wasn't really too rattled about last week and I'm able to bounce back and be the leader I should be," Savage said.

Savage's job has been made easier by senior receiver Tim Brown, who leads the Big East with 1,051 yards.

Brown, who has five 100-yard games this season, hasn't found much space against the Mountaineers. He has five catches -- two for TDs -- and 124 receiving yards in three games versus West Virginia.


Passing Leaders

C. Trickett67.132851810
S. Howard50.982980
G. Nova57.228512212
C. Laviano39.310701

Rushing Leaders

R. Shell1767884.57
W. Smallwood1487224.92
D. Peoples1154473.93
J. Hicks694406.42

Receiving Leaders

K. White109144713.310
M. Alford6594514.511
L. Carroo55108619.710
A. Turzilli1034734.74