Linebackers Darryl Talley and Delbert Fowler scored tochdowns to put the finishing touches on a smashing comeback that gave West Virginia University a 45-21 homecoming victory over the Virginia today.
Trailing, 21-9, at halftime, the Mountaineers took the ball away from Virginia seven times in the second half and that led to 36 points. West Virginia recovered three fumbles, intercepted three passes and even recovered a short kickoff.
Quarterback Oliver Luck made up for a poor first half by engineering three third-quarter touchdowns. Luck scored on a three-yard keeper and threw touchdown passes of 30 yards to Darrell Miller and 31 yards to Cedric Thomas.
With WVU ahead, 31-21 outside linebackers Talley and Fowler wrapped up the victory with fourth-quarter touchdowns. Talley returned a pass interception 30 yards and Fowler got the final score on a 14-yard run with a fumble.
"I told Ollie (Luck) at halftime not to get down, 'we (the defense) will get the ball back for you,'" said Fowler, a senior standout.
Tackle Calvin Turner was another WVU defensive hero, blocking a punt in the first half and falling on two fumbles.
Virginia offset three field goals by Steve Sinclair by taking a 21-9 lead.
A pass interception of a tipped pass by tackle Stuart Anderson at the WVU 9 set up halfback Tom Vigorito's two-yard TD run. Virginia linebacker Mark LeNeve grabbed a Robert Alexander fumble out of the air and rambled 82 yards for a touchdown. The Cavaliers drove 87 yards for their third touchdown, with Vigorito going the final yard.
Vigorito gained 114 yards in 25 rushes for Virginia but the top runner in the games was West Virginia's Alexander with 164 yards in 24 carries. Alexander had nonscoring runs of 61 and 37 yards. The senior tailback has 677 yards in five games to rank among the NCAA leaders.
The victory gave West Virginia a 4-1 record, its best start since 1975. Virginia is 2-2.
"We tried to give it away in the first half," West Virginia Coach Don Nehlen said. "They (Virginia) tried harder to give it away in the second half, and they did."
Virginia Coach Dick Bestwick said almost the same thing: "West Virginia tried to give it away in the first half, and we gave it away the second half. When you turn the football over seven times -- and particularly in the field position we turned it over in -- it is going to hurt you."
Things were going so well for WVU in the second half that its kickoff Sinclair, half-missed the ball and the Mountainners recovered on the Virginia 45 to set up the third WVU touchdown.
"The on-side kick wasn't planned," Nehlen said."Sinclair just hit the top of the ball and our defense played like the devil and got it."
The crowd was listed as 45,088 paid, but there were about 5,000 no-shows because of overcast skies and cold, 47-degree weather. The Mountaineers won't have to worry a about cold weather next week, though; they will leave Monday for Honolulu to play the University of Hawaii Saturday.
West Virginia will play five of its next six games on the road, with the trip to Hawaii the longest away game in Mountaineer history.