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Special play helps WVU past Maryland

by Chris Errington


(September 21, 1998) MORGANTOWN -- Give West Virginia's special teams some credit.

Sure, the Mountaineers' offense moved the ball expertly on the ground and through the air in gaining 468 total yards against Maryland on Saturday night. And yes, a suspect defense that was continually burned against Ohio State two weeks ago overpowered the Terrapins until the game already was decided.

But West Virginia's special teams had a role in the win, too.

A unit that was ridiculed unmercifully by fans for poor play the past few years is now one of the team's biggest strengths.

"You don't know how good it feels to know you're helping the team and not hurting it," WVU placekicker-punter Jay Taylor said. "We've worked so hard on improving over the offseason, and now we're starting to see the rewards."

Want proof of how far the unit's come? Look at the Maryland game:

· David Carter's second-quarter block of a Maryland punt and subsequent touchdown recovery gave the Mountaineers a 28-3 lead.

· Taylor's 45.5-yard punting average included a 42-yarder that forced the Terrapins to start their first drive from their 3-yard line and a 54-yarder in the third quarter in which David Lightcap blasted Guilian Gary for no return.

· The Mountaineers had 105 total return yards, and could have had even more had two long returns not been called back because of penalties.

WVU head coach Don Nehlen said the special teams' play was "really good" and that Carter's block was a product of the Mountaineers simply biding their time.

"We had just been returning, returning, returning, so we thought the time was right to go for (a block)," Nehlen said. "Sometimes kids get relaxed, and one of their kids fell asleep. That's all it was."

WVU defensive lineman John Thornton praised WVU's special teams.

"When we get plays like that blocked punt and punts that make Maryland drive the length of the field, it only helps us. When (the special teams) play well, it makes us a complete package," Thornton said.

However, Taylor warned that the good play against Maryland didn't absolve years of bad play.

"We've still got a lot of work ahead of us,"Taylor said. "We want to do our job every game, but it takes more than words. You have to actually go out there and do it.

"If we're still playing well at the end of the season, then we can celebrate."

TICKETS: About 1,000 tickets are available for the Miami (Oct. 24) and Syracuse (Nov. 7) games at Mountaineer Field.

The tickets initially were given to the Miami and Syracuse athletic departments, which returned them recently.

The tickets go on sale today at the Mountaineer Ticket Office and all United National Bank ticket outlets statewide.