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by Joedy McCreary
(September 6) MORGANTOWN -- Talk about getting a baptism under fire.
West Virginia University's secondary, victimized repeatedly by Ohio State receivers David Boston and Dee Miller, proved it simply wasn't ready for the top-ranked Buckeyes Saturday evening.
And the result was tough for the defensive backs to swallow: Giving up more than 300 passing yards in a 34-17 opening night loss, in front of a home crowd of 68,409.
"Their wide receivers give them an edge, and their quarterback kept them moving," WVU coach Don Nehlen said. "When they do that, they're a darn good football team."
Buckeye quarterback Joe Germaine passed for 301 yards, completing 18 of 32 attempts with two touchdowns. Germaine took over the starter's role on a full-time basis this season.
Germaine now has thrown a touchdown pass in nine straight games. He said WVU's pre-game comments made his game a personal statement.
"Some of the things they said kind of added fuel to our fire," Germaine said. "We took them kind of personal. So we just came in and took care of business."
Familiarity appeared to be a problem for some Mountaineer DBs. Two WVU defensive backs played other positions a year ago. Safety Jerry Porter was a wide receiver and strong safety Gary Thompkins was the free safety in 1997.
And Charles Fisher was a spot starter at cornerback last year, taking the job from Perlo Bastien permanently during fall camp. Porter, however, said he was used to playing in the secondary. "I felt at home and knew every place I was supposed to be," Porter said.
Boston came in advertised as an All-American and did little to live that down, catching seven passes for 129 yards. His biggest catch was a 39-yard touchdown grab from Germaine midway through the third quarter that all but fizzled WVU's spirit. Boston got behind Nate Terry and made the catch look easy.
Terry said that a man-to-man defense was called on the play and he didn't have any help. "When that Boston guy goes, he goes," Nehlen said. "We didn't get much pressure on him."
Miller also caught a 14-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter, an outstretched grab that pushed Ohio State's lead to 17-3. Miller finished the game with six grabs for 110 yards.
Still, Terry wasn't 100 percent sold on the Buckeye duo. "Boston and Miller were all right, but they weren't as great as they made them out to be," Terry said.
For WVU, turnovers -- or, more specifically, a lack thereof -- weren't easy to come by.
But even when the ball fell into WVU's hands, it found a way to fall back out. Ohio State recovered three of its own fumbles, all at key times.
A first-quarter pass slipped through Porter's hands in the end zone.
Two of those fumbles -- including one on the second-half kickoff -- found Charles Fisher's hands. But neither managed to stick. "Ohio State dropped the ball four or five times," Nehlen said. "But we couldn't get our hands on them. In a big game, you've got to make them."
When the Mountaineers' egos weren't bruised, their bodies were. Porter went down with ailments no less than three times, apparently none of them serious.
And freshman Ricky Sherrod, from Capital High, sprained his left knee on a WVU punt. Nehlen said an MRI was scheduled on Sherrod's knee but that initial reports are "not encouraging."