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West Virginia curbs errors in time for Syracuse game

Surprisingly, West Virginia's season is really just beginning.

When the Mountaineers struggled for a 29-29 tie with Miami of Ohio in their season opener, their new year didn't appear to hold much promise. Surely, they would be an afterthought by now.

But No. 24 West Virginia will be the team with an unbeaten record, not No. 14 Syracuse (4-1), when the teams meet in Morgantown, W.Va., this week.

The Mountaineers rebounded to go 3-0-1 in the next four games, with the tie coming against previously unbeaten Boston College.

"We've eliminated the mistakes that we made against Miami," said Mountaineers coach Don Nehlen. "We fumbled that game away. We just played poor football. We've become more consistent."

The most consistent aspect has been tailback Adrian Murrell. Murrell is the fifth-leading rusher in the nation with 648 yards, including four 100-yard games this year. Only Miami of Ohio held him to less than 100. He is well on his way to becoming West Virginia's first 1,000-yard rusher since 1980.

The downside for the Mountaineers is their next three opponents are in a different league than their first five. After Syracuse, they play Penn State, then at Miami.

"It's ulcer time when you talk about Syracuse with all its weapons," said Nehlen. "All three teams should be in the top 10."

A win in any of those games would go a long way toward securing West Virginia's first bowl game since the 1989 Gator Bowl.

Speaking of Syracuse: The spark returned last week. The Orangemen struggled to gain consistency on offense recently in games with Louisville and Ohio State, but they exploded for 50 points, including scores on their first five possessions.

"We just really played the way we're capable of," coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "We didn't play poorly before, we just made mistakes that stopped us."

It's a four-quarter game: Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer doesn't let himself think about it too much, but his Hokies could be 4-1 if not for two late collapses.

They lost leads to East Carolina and Louisville in the final quarter.

"We've played three good quarters, but that's not enough," Beamer said. "That's a matter of depth, I think. And we don't have a lot of depth."

Notes: Syracuse's Qadry Ismail became the eighth player in NCAA history to return kicks for over 2,000 yards. Boston College, which plays Penn State this week, is 1-19 vs. the Nittany Lions. Temple freshman linebacker Lance Johnstone shares the conference lead for sacks at five with Miami's Kevin Patrick.