Friday, January 1, 2010
Instant analysis: Konica Minolta Gator Bowl
By Brian Bennett
Instant analysis of West Virginia's 33-21 loss to Florida State in the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl:
How the game was won: The Mountaineers simply couldn't stop the run. Florida State rushed for 225 yards, more than half of them by Jermaine Thomas, as the West Virginia defense couldn't get off the field enough. After getting out to an early 14-3 lead, the Mountaineers struggled to do much more on offense and lost starting quarterback Jarrett Brown to an ankle injury late in the first half.
Turning point: West Virginia had a first down on the FSU 22-yard line late in the second quarter with a 14-10 lead. The next two plays resulted in a holding penalty and an intentional grounding foul, followed by a sack of Brown that knocked him out of the game for good. The Mountaineers came away with no points, the Seminoles got a field goal before halftime and the game was virtually all Florida State from there.
Player of the game: Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel. The youngster threw for 189 yards and ran for 69 yards and a score as he managed the game efficiently throughout.
Stat of the game: West Virginia had only 102 yards passing, and 35 of those came on the final drive when the outcome was well in hand. Outside of Noel Devine (16 rushes, 168 yards), the Mountaineers didn't have a lot of options on offense.
Unsung hero of the game: Florida State kick returner Greg Reid. His 69-yard return to start the second half set up the Seminoles' go-ahead field goal.
What it means: West Virginia was in a tough spot in this game, trying to play the villain in Bobby Bowden's curtain call. The Mountaineers could have reached the 10-win plateau and possibly secured a top 15 finish. Instead, they lost a bowl game for the first time since 2005 and became the first Big East to lose in the postseason. Still, the future looks pretty bright in Morgantown. Freshman quarterback Geno Smith played the second half and showed off some of his many talents. West Virginia could lose Devine to the draft but will return a lot of key players next year.