Return to Sports

Saunders breaks receiving record

by Joedy McCreary


MORGANTOWN -- It was vintage David Saunders.

He had just caught his second pass of the day, a diving 9-yard grab from Marc Bulger in the second quarter to give him 127 career receptions.

And his mind was squarely on getting catch No. 128.

"I just kept wanting the ball," Saunders said.

Saunders finished the afternoon with six catches for 61 yards, including an acrobatic touchdown reception, in West Virginia's 44-21 win over Tulsa.

That gives him a total of 131 career catches, placing him first in WVU's record book. Rahsaan Vanterpool held the mark with 126 grabs from 1993-96.

"It means a lot because a lot of names go through West Virginia football," Saunders said.

"My name's in there now, too," he said.

But even Saunders acknowledges that he isn't a lock for the record.

That's because teammate Shawn Foreman had four receptions Saturday to bring him to 119 career grabs.

Saunders anticipates a run-to-the-finish race for the receptions record, much like baseball's home run derby this year.

"We're in the race," Saunders said. "If he does it, I'm happy for him. I'm pulling for Shawn Foreman every down."

That's because Foreman was among Saunders' influences when Saunders missed the 1997 season with torn knee ligaments.

"I came close (to quitting football) early because I couldn't do anything," Saunders said.

"But Shawn Foreman kept my head up. He knew I was going to be back before I knew I was," Saunders said.

And Saunders' turned in a voluminous "I'm back!" early in the second half with perhaps his most spectacular touchdown catch of his career.

Bulger lofted a pass into the corner of the end zone. And Saunders outjumped the Tulsa defensive back and barely landed his left foot in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown.

"Athletes make plays," Saunders said. "That's what coach tells us. I wouldn't be in there if I didn't.

"I just went up and caught the ball," Saunders said. "I had a good feeling about it. I didn't know if I got my feet in. I'm just happy I got into the end zone for the first time." Bulger said his confidence in his receivers made that touchdown possibility.

"With Dave and Shawn, I know I can just throw it up there and they'll come down with it," Bulger said. "We wouldn't have run those plays, but with Shawn and Dave we can make those plays against Tulsa."