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Smith and Austin lead West Virginia past Rutgers

Dec 5, 2010 - 7:24 AM Morgantown, WV (Sports Network) - Geno Smith passed for a career-high 352 yards and a touchdown, as 23rd-ranked West Virginia claimed a 35-14 victory over Rutgers in the regular-season finale for both teams.

The Mountaineers did their part in trying to win the Big East. They entered the game tied with Pittsburgh and Connecticut atop the standings, but needed the Huskies to lose to South Florida on Saturday to capture the conference.

Instead, UConn earned a 19-16 win to book its first-ever trip to a BCS bowl.

Tavon Austin had a spectacular day, catching six passes for 121 yards and a score, while running for a 46-yard touchdown. Ryan Clarke totaled three rushing scores for West Virginia (9-3, 5-2 Big East), which overcame a spate of turnovers to win its fourth consecutive game.

"I thought we played with a lot of spirit, a lot of physicalness. We were flying around pretty good," West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart said.

West Virginia limited Rutgers quarterback Chas Dodd to 139 yards and two touchdowns on 10-of-19 efficiency, while sacking him six times. The Scarlet Knights (4-8, 1-6) lost their 16th consecutive game against WVU and ended their season on a six-game slide.

Though the final margin was sizeable, West Virginia gave Rutgers opportunities to stay in the game -- or take control -- in the first quarter. But each time, the Scarlet Knights weren't able to take advantage because of their ineffective offense.

The Mountaineers got deep into Rutgers territory on their opening drive before Clarke fumbled, and Manny Abreu recovered at the Scarlet Knights' eight-yard line. However, Rutgers moved only six yards before punting, and WVU scored on the ensuing possession.

Needing to go only 48 yards, the Mountaineers did so in five plays, the final one being Smith's 19-yard strike to Austin with 8:21 left in the quarter.

Later in the period, WVU was back on Rutgers' side of the field. Smith converted a first down with a pass to Jock Sanders, but Sanders fumbled and Brandon Jones recovered at the Scarlet Knights' 13.

Yet, just two plays later, Jordan Thomas fumbled the ball away. That set WVU up at the Rutgers nine, and the Mountaineers scored on the first play of the second quarter. With WVU at the one, Clarke rushed up the middle, bounced off the line and got into the end zone on the left side, making it a 14-0 game.

Rutgers got on the board later in the half, thanks to a 12-play drive that lasted nearly seven minutes. Dodd capped the 79-yard march with an 18-yard TD pass to Thomas, who was wide open on the left side of the field and scored with 2:52 on the clock.

It was a 14-7 game at the break, and WVU widened its lead by scoring on its first touch in the second half. Clarke's one-yard touchdown run ended a 10- play, 91-yard progression midway through the quarter.

The Mountaineers were threatening again on their next possession, but Smith fumbled inches from the goal line as he was tackled. But the WVU defense helped its offense overcome the turnovers by stifling the Rutgers offense, and the Mountaineers took total control in the fourth.

WVU took over at midfield in the first minute of the final quarter, and after Smith completed a four-yard pass, Austin reached the end zone on an explosive run up the middle. Clarke's third touchdown of the day, a three-yard run with 4:32 remaining, made it a 35-7 contest.

Dodd's 44-yard touchdown pass to Mark Harrison on Rutgers' ensuing possession completed the scoring.

Game Notes

Sanders finished with six catches for 81 yards for WVU, which totaled 523 yards...Rutgers was limited to 203 yards of offense...Smith completed 23-of-28 passes...The Mountaineers have fumbled the ball 25 times this season and lost 16.