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West Virginia wins, waits in vain for Bulls' help

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia dismantled Rutgers, then came the difficult part — an hours-long wait to see if the Mountaineers could secure a third Bowl Championship Series berth in six seasons.

USF came close but didn't deliver for the Mountaineers.

Geno Smith threw for a career-high 352 yards, Ryan Clarke had three short touchdown runs and No. 23 West Virginia overcame three turnovers to beat the Scarlet Knights 35-14 Saturday and clinch a share of the Big East title.

WVU's players exchanged handshakes and hugs afterward, but the celebration was brief. With the home crowd leaving the stadium shouting "USF! USF!", the Mountaineers were awaiting the outcome of the Connecticut-South Florida game at Raymond James Stadium.

Connecticut won 19-16, clinching the league's BCS berth. UConn, West Virginia and Pittsburgh all finished 5-2 in the conference but UConn earned its first BCS bid because of a tiebreaker — the Huskies beat both head-to-head.

Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart hinted he'd be near his TV set with his wife and teenage son.

"I'm going to put the sweats on and I'll probably hunker down in the family room," Stewart said. "It's going to be a Stewart family night."

It marked the fifth shared or outright Big East title for the Mountaineers since 2003.

West Virginia's title hopes appeared dim after back-to-back losses to Syracuse and Connecticut. Two straight losses by Pitt, including one to West Virginia a week earlier, put the Mountaineers back in contention as they finished the regular season with four straight wins.

On a day West Virginia honored 20 seniors in their final home game, the younger players did much of the work.

Smith was 23-of-28 including 11 straight completions. Fellow sophomore Tavon Austin caught six passes for 121 yards, catching one touchdown and running for another. Junior defensive end Julian Miller registered half of West Virginia's six sacks.

"It's my first Big East championship, so it feels good," Austin said. "I'm having a good day."

Chas Dodd threw two TDs for Rutgers, which lost its sixth straight overall and its 16th straight to West Virginia.

PITT 28, CINCINNATI 10: On another blustery day, nobody was going to stop Dion Lewis.

The sophomore tailback ran for a career-high 261 yards and four touchdowns on a snowy field, leading Pittsburgh to a win and a share of the Big East title — though their BCS hopes ended with West Virginia's win.

A steady snow reminded Pitt and Cincinnati of their 2009 matchup at Heinz Field, where the Bearcats rallied from a 31-10 deficit to a 45-44 win in the final minute. Cincinnati got its second straight Big East title and a Sugar Bowl appearance.

"Last year, it was for the Big East championship and they beat us on our home field," Lewis said. "Everybody still had the sour taste in our mouths. We had a chance today to get a little revenge."

Cincinnati's Bearcat mascot threw snowballs and pushed a security guard, a school spokesman said. The mascot was detained, cited for disorderly conduct and replaced by another mascot at halftime.

No. 23 WVU 35

Rutgers 14

West Virginia wins, waits in vain for Bulls' help 12/04/10 [Last modified: Sunday, December 5, 2010 12:28am]

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