December 03, 2006

Mountaineers slam door on Rutgers' hopes

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Given extra chances on a championship stage, Rutgers couldn't finish the job. No. 15 West Virginia knocked down Mike Teel's 2-point conversion pass in the end zone to preserve the Mountaineers' 41-39 triple-overtime win over No. 13 Rutgers on Saturday night, denying the Scarlet Knights their first BCS berth and handing Louisville the Big East's automatic bid as conference champion.

"There's a lot of hurt in there," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "There are a lot of sad young men. They have invested a lot in this season and in this week and in this game. Emotionally and physically, it's just sad."

Jarrett Brown ran for one touchdown and threw the go-ahead score in triple overtime to help West Virginia (10-2, 5-2 Big East) cap its second straight 10-win season. Brown started for Pat White, who missed the game because of a sore ankle.

Brown, a sophomore, finished 14-of-29 for 244 yards in his first extensive play.

"We have every confidence in Jarrett Brown," West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. "He did a great job of using the opportunity he was given. I'm really proud of Jarrett and the way he kept his composure."

The ending was a peculiar finish to an improbable regular season for Rutgers (10-2, 5-2). A loser for so long, the Scarlet Knights started 9-0 before being upset at Cincinnati, then rebounded by beating Syracuse to set the stage for what would have been a historic win against WVU.

But while Rutgers produced its best season since going 11-0 in 1976, it wasn't enough to get the BCS berth the Scarlet Knights were hoping for.

Rutgers now could have to settle for the Texas Bowl. The Scarlet Knights dropped to 0-15 in Morgantown, dating to 1920.

"They have nothing to be ashamed of," Schiano said. "They played their hearts out."

West Virginia, which began the season with national championship aspirations, is headed to either the Gator or Sun bowls. The Gator notified the Big 12 that it will wait until Sunday to choose a team from the Big East or the Big 12. The Sun Bowl has the next choice after the Gator.

A month ago, the Mountaineers were third in the BCS standings before a Nov. 2 loss to Louisville dashed their national title hopes, then their BCS chances were lost with a shocking loss at home to South Florida.

"This football team has been through a lot this year, a little adversity," Rodriguez said. "You know we didn't play very well at times (Saturday), but nobody panicked."

Starting with the third overtime, teams are required to go for 2-point conversions following touchdowns. Brown hit Brandon Myles across the middle from 22 yards out for the go-ahead score against No. 13 Rutgers (10-2, 5-2), then found Dorrell Jalloh with a 2-point pass for a 41-33 lead.

Rutgers' Ray Rice then scored from 2 yards out. On the 2-point try, Teel scrambled to his right and threw toward Rice but Vaughn Rivers broke up the pass and several thousand fans in the sellout crowd ran onto the field in celebration.

Rice carried 25 times for 129 yards, including 90 yards after halftime. Teel completed 19-of-26 passes for 278 yards and made West Virginia's secondary look susceptible for the second straight game.

"Tonight, they made one more play than us," Teel said. "You felt that whoever had the ball last was going to have a chance to win the game. And we had a chance, but they made the play. We didn't."

No. 6 Louisville beat Connecticut 48-17 earlier Saturday, then waited for the Rutgers-West Virginia result.

It took awhile longer than expected.

Rutgers came from 10 points down for a 23-20 lead late in the fourth quarter on Jeremy Ito's 31-yard field goal. West Virginia's Pat McAfee kicked a 30-yarder with 53 seconds left to tie it at 23.

Both kickers made field goals in the first overtime.

In the second overtime, Rice's 12-yard run set up Leonard's 2-yard touchdown run and gave the Scarlet Knights their first lead since early in the third quarter.

Brown then found Myles with a 19-yard pass to the 1 on third down and Steve Slaton scored on the next play to tie the score at 33-33.

Slaton bounced back from his worst game of the season with 112 yards on 23 carries, including a pair of 1-yard TD runs. Without White, the nation's No. 2 rushing team was held to 195 yards on the ground.

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