PISCATAWAY, N.J. - No. 25 West Virginia (6-2, 2-1 Big East) successfully overcame a fired up Rutgers Scarlet Knights team, that was led out onto High Point Solutions Stadium by injured Eric Lagrean, and weather conditions that reminded fans more of winter than late fall.
But, the Mountaineers most important win may have come over themselves.
"It was hard," WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen explained. "I'm proud of the guys and the way they responded. Rutgers wanted to win this game. You could tell it. For us to come in, especially after the loss last week, shows that our team may be on the verge of growing up a little bit."
The 41-31 victory, WVU's 17th in a row over the Scarlet Knights, places the old gold and blue into a three-way tie with Louisville and Pittsburgh for second place in the Big East. Cincinnati, which WVU travels to on Nov. 12, leads the 8-team league with a 2-0 mark.
"We have been talking about adversity all week," continued Holgorsen. "Not to take anything away from Rutgers. We felt like we out-played them in the second half."
After falling behind 31-21, following a first half that saw junior quarterback Geno Smith struggle with both the weather and his own inaccuracy, WVU bounced back behind the running of junior Shawne Alston and Smith, who put the Mountaineers in the lead for good with a 1-yard scoring run with 6:18 left in the game.
"It was a big play because it shows that he (Holgorsen) trust us," said senior left tackle Don Barclay. "The whole week has been focused on adversity. The second half I think the whole team responded."
Because of that response WVU returns to the friendly confines of Milan Puskar Stadium on Saturday for a noon showdown with the Cardinals from the University of Louisville (4-4, 2-1 Big East). Austin proved to be the difference maker as the 221-pounder provided the Mountaineers with the power running game it needed to overcome a fast, but small Scarlet Knights' prevent unit. The junior finished with a career-high 110 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns on runs of 52-yards at the 6:07 mark of the first quarter and from 2-yards out to culminate a 2-play, 7-yard drive that was set up by a Julian Miller fumble recovery at the Rutgers' 7 with 13:28 left until the intermission.
Those proved to be the final points by the visitors in the first half as Rutgers took the 10-point lead on touchdown runs of 1 and 18 yards by Jawan Jamison.
The second one, coming at the 2:53 mark of the first half, proving to be the final time the Scarlet Knights would reach pay dirt.
"We didn't change anything," continued Holgorsen. "It was effort. Our team played well together in the second half."
Now, if the Mountaineers can continue to play as a team over the final four games of the regular season, WVU will find itself playing in one of the five BCS bowls that take place in January.