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Schmitt leads No. 13 West Virginia past Syracuse

November 30, 1999|By JOHN KEKIS

SYRACUSE, N.Y. ? Fullback Owen Schmitt scored his first two touchdowns of the season, defensive tackle Keilen Dykes returned an interception 19 yards for another score, and No. 13 West Virginia beat Syracuse 55-14 on Saturday.

It was the 100th victory for West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez and helped put last week's 21-13 loss at South Florida behind.

The Mountaineers (5-1, 1-1 Big East), who committed six turnovers in a loss that probably cost them any chance at the national championship, converted two deflected passes into touchdowns in the first half to build a commanding 31-7 lead over the Orange (1-5, 1-1).

West Virginia quarterback Pat White, who sustained a thigh bruise against South Florida and sat out the second half, suffered what appeared to be a shoulder injury midway through the third quarter against Syracuse and never returned.

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Before he was relieved for the second straight week by Jarrett Brown, White was 12-of-15 for 148 yards and one touchdown and had 14 carries for a team-high 89 yards and another TD.

The maligned Syracuse defense held Steve Slaton to 69 yards rushing on 15 carries. Slaton entered the game averaging 122.4 yards a game, second in the nation.

Syracuse, which entered the game tied for first nationally with only one interception allowed in its first five games, gave up its second on just the third play from scrimmage. Andrew Robinson's short pass was high and deflected off the hands of wide receiver Taj Smith into the arms of Ryan Mundy, who returned it 26 yards to the Syracuse 37. Five plays later, Schmitt, who finished with 39 yards rushing on eight carries, scored from the 7 on third down for a 7-0 lead.

It was a bad omen for the Orange, who allowed West Virginia to convert 10-of-15 third-down situations.

Syracuse, which upset then-No. 18 Louisville 38-35 on the road two weeks ago despite being a 36-point underdog, quickly tied it, and visions of another stunner didn't seem so farfetched.

Freshman Mike Holmes returned the ensuing kickoff 41 yards to the West Virginia 45, and the Orange drove to a score in 10 plays. Robinson hit Mike Williams over the middle for 11 yards on a third-and-8 play to help set up Curtis Brinkley's 1-yard TD run.

The Mountaineers came right back behind White, who began the go-ahead drive with a 14-yard keeper. He then hit Slaton with a 16-yard pass and scored untouched on a 1-yard run left on third down for a 14-7 lead with 2:13 remaining in the first.

After the Orange defense forced West Virginia into a three-and-out, the game changed on another deflected pass. Robinson's screen pass to Smith bounced off linebacker Reed Williams and the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Dykes caught the ball in stride and rumbled into the end zone for a 21-7 lead.

It was the first time a West Virginia defensive lineman had scored since Jeff Seals in a 38-10 victory over Boston College in 1981.

Syracuse failed to gain a first down on its next two possessions, and Schmitt keyed another West Virginia score, gaining 31 yards on a screen pass before scoring on a 1-yard run with 1:50 left in the half. Pat McAfee added a 49-yard field goal at the buzzer to give the Mountaineers a commanding 31-7 halftime lead.

West Virginia, helped by a face-mask penalty against the Orange on the second-half kickoff, drove 46 yards in six plays, with White hitting Darius Reynaud for a 20-yard touchdown.

Robinson hit Williams for a 61-yard touchdown pass with 2:10 left in the third before Brown hit Tito Gonzales in stride for a 41-yard gain and then scored on a 4-yard run early in the fourth.

Jock Sanders scored on a 11 yard run to complete the rout, the most lopsided loss in Greg Robinson's three years as Syracuse coach.

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