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Anderson arrived in last season's 31-27 win at Morgantown

by Greg Talkington

SPORTS WRITER

MORGANTOWN -- Last season, West Virginia was on the verge of putting away Syracuse when the then-Mountaineer coaching staff called for an unneeded, yet fateful pass.

That pass was thrown by the Scott McBrien and was intercepted with 4:17 remaining at the Syracuse 16.

That would lead to another fateful pass, this one for the Orangemen.

Redshirt freshman quarterback R.J. Anderson, making his first collegiate start, would march the Orange 84 yards and fire a 13-yard fade pass to Malik Campbell with just :10 to play to lift them to a 31-27 victory.

"We should have never lost that game," WVU linebacker Kyle Kayden said. "We gave them an interception and then couldn't stop them there at the end.

"Then, coach (Don) Nehlen announced his retirement after the game, so it was a double banger."

Kayden remembers the calm Anderson brought to the Orangemen.

"He did a great job of bringing them down the field," Kayden said. "He's such a strong, physical player.

"He was tough to tackle, yet he threw a beautiful pass when they needed him to."

Anderson (6-2, 235) is back this year, this time as the established starter after beating out the inconsistent and mistake-prone Troy Nunes for the job the third game of the season.

It's no coincidence the Orangemen are on a seven-game winning streak since his playing time significantly increased.

"He just doesn't make many mistakes," WVU coach Rich Rodriguez said. "He's made some big plays in the passing game for them and he's just missed on several more, and that's what really scares you.

"They're really close to having several big plays this year."

Anderson's statistics aren't that great. He's completed just 43.2 percent of his passes (38-of-88). But he's thrown just one interception and has fired four touchdown passes while running for four more.

In addition, he's averaging an amazing 19 yards per completion.

Despite completing just 6 of 17 passes in SU's upset of Virginia Tech two weeks ago, Hokie coach Frank Beamer said Anderson was the difference.

"Every time they needed a big play on offense, he came up with it for them," Beamer said.

"To me, he's the main reason they're on a seven-game winning streak."

West Virginia's Shawn Hackett said Anderson's strength is his biggest asset.

"He's so big and strong," Hackett said. "He's a hard guy to get down.

"To me, he's a real good quarterback."

If the Mountaineers are to spring an upset Saturday, there's little doubt slowing down Anderson will be of the utmost importance.

Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at gtalkington@exponent-telegram.com

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