Elliott: Defensive Play Has Big Role
MORGANTOWN – It’s not always easy to identify the pivotal play in what turns out to be a 27-point victory, but there was little doubt who one of West Virginia’s big heroes was Saturday.
Connecticut had driven the ball all the way to the WVU 13 with a first down, looking to take a lead when cornerback Pat Miller and linebacker Jewone Snow combined on a big momentum-changer.
Flags flew just as the Huskies snapped the ball (for illegal motion), but quarterback Johnny McEntee went ahead and carried through with it.
“Johnny tucked the ball in and didn’t have anybody to throw it to so he ran it and as opposed to going down on the ground and protect himself, he got hit and the ball came out,” recalled UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni.
After McEntee advanced the ball 3 yards, he was hit by Miller and coughed up the ball.
“I didn’t even know he fumbled,” Miller said.
That’s where Snow, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound redshirt freshman from Canton with strong football bloodlines, entered the play.
“I saw the hit and I saw the ball go up,” Snow said. “I just ran for the ball and caught it.”
Then he took off.
“I just saw the sideline and I saw the guys coming from the side and the blockers in front,” Snow said.
He picked up a few of those blocks and rumbled 83 yards, all the way back to the Connecticut 12 before being tackled by Ryan Griffin. Griffin wasn’t the only player to catch Snow on that jaunt.
“I didn’t even know Snow had the ball had the ball until 30 yards down field,” Miller said. “I thought one of the safeties had it, somebody like (Darwin) Cook or somebody.”
So Miller followed.
“I kinda passed him,” Miller said.
Snow had a feeling he wasn’t going to make it.
“I was just trying to keep going and keep going. By the time I got to the other 30, I was tired,” Snow said.
West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel knew Snow wouldn’t get there.
“He should have lateraled that ball,” Casteel said.
The return was the longest non-touchdown fumble return for the Mountaineers since Tim Love returned one 41 yards at Boston College in 2001.
Yes, Steubenville’s Shaq Petteway played some solid minutes and had two tackles against the Huskies, but there was another former OVAC standout who had a pretty good game for the Mountaineers in punter Mike Molinari, an ex-Parkersburg South standout.
Punting for West Virginia for the first time in his career – and for the first time since the 8th grade if you exclude the North-South Game in high school – Molinari had two punts for 87 yards and sent one out of bounds at the 2.
There had been talk of making a change after regular punter Corey Smith shanked a 15-yarder and a 14-yarder in back-to-back games, contributing to the Mountaineers having some of the worst punt net yardage statistics in the country.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to put guys in game situations and give guys chances and see what they can do,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “UConn didn’t come after it very much. He had some time and the conditions were good and he took advantage of it.”
Molinari, also the holder on extra points and field goals, knew he had it in him.
“All week I was just dreaming I was going to hit those kicks,” he said. “You’ve got to expect that you’re going to kick great balls. I expected it all week that I was going to have a great game and sure enough I did.”
- UConn kicker David Teggart matched the opponent’s record for a field goal at Mountaineer Field with a 53-yarder in the second quarter. The first to do that was Syracuse’s Patrick Shadle in 2008. Shadle grew up in the shadows of Mountaineer Field and graduated from Morgantown High.
- WVU scored 23 points in the third quarter, marking the third time this season it has posted 20 or more in a quarter. WVU has scored 20 or more in a quarter 35 times since 2001.
- The Mountaineers have a five-game winning streak in Big East play.