Originally posted on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 10/29/11

West Virginia says it's leaving the Big East for the Big 12 on July 1, but until the Mountaineers' second-half resurgence Saturday it appeared as though they had already left.

One week after WVU's most lopsided loss in more than a decade to Syracuse, the Mountaineers seemed to lack motivation in the first half against Rutgers on Saturday. The biggest disappointment was the defense, which allowed freshman quarterback Gary Nova throw two touchdown passes en route to a 31-21 halftime lead.

Now it was an odd October day in Piscataway, N.J., as snow covered the field and WVU's defenders seemed to struggle with the conditions the most. Maybe the Mountaineers have too many Floridians on the roster.

Rutgers was also emotionally charged as former Scarlet Knight Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed in a game last year, led the team out onto the field before the game. But it didn't explain WVU's defensive struggles.

 

But it was the much maligned WVU defense that got the Mountaineers back in the game in the second half. The defense created some turnovers and forced Nova to hurry some passes, and in the terrible conditions didn't help either.

So after holding Rutgers scoreless in the second half, what should we make of the WVU defense?

Well, the 3-3-5 that Jeff Casteel loves to run hasn't been the lockdown defense that Mountaineers fell in love with last year. The unit still doesn't get enough pressure on the quarterback, and they struggle to get off the field.

The second half still showed some promise.

If the defense hadn't shut down Rutgers it would be hard to see how WVU could have pulled out the win.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, who has never defeated West Virginia, hurt his own team. Leading 31-28, the Scarlet Knights drove to the WVU 11. On fourth down, Schiano decided to fake a 28-yard field goal attempt. While the play had promise, it failed and Rutgers never seriously threatened again.

Speaking of coaches, Dana Holgorsen made some questionable calls in the first half, especially considering the weather, and it hurt WVU's chances of building any confidence and consistency.

His second-half play calling was much stronger, and I liked the way he ran the ball more the entire game. Most notably, he got a great performance from Shawne Alston, who had TD runs of 52 and 2.

Tavon Austin also had a big game for the Mountaineers, even though WVU kept running a misdirection play with him into the short side of the field. Austin did score an 80-yard touchdown the first time they ran the play and he also scored WVU's final touchdown on a screen that he turned into a 20-yard scamper.

The Mountaineers still have a lot to work on if they are going to win the Big East. It starts next Saturday with Louisville, which cruised past Syracuse, in Morgantown. If WVU gets past the Cardinals then it has a huge showdown with Cincinnati in Paul Brown Stadium.

Apparently West Virginia is still in the Big East.

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