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WVU defense not quite so dominant lately

January 1, 1997

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ West Virginia’s defense, tops in the country most of the year, was far from dominant against three of the four best opponents it faced.

No. 12 North Carolina gained 289 yards in beating West Virginia 20-13 on Wednesday in the Gator Bowl.

Before that, No. 11 Virginia Tech shredded the Mountaineers for 365 yards and 31 points, while No. 23 Syracuse gained 252 yards and scored 30 points. West Virginia held No. 19 Miami to only 162 yards and 10 points, but Hurricanes’ starting quarterback Ryan Clement played that game in severe pain from a separated non-throwing shoulder.

``You’ve got to understand that no one saw us at the beginning of the season,″ said defensive captain Charles Emanuel, a safety. ``No one had film on us. No one knew what we were running. But later in the season, North Carolina had all the film in the world. So teams are smarter when they played against us.″

North Carolina took control of WVU’s defense midway through the first half, going 90 yards for the game’s first score, an 18-yard touchdown pass from Oscar Davenport to wideout Octavius Barnes.

It was the longest drive of the season by a WVU opponent.

It also saw one of the biggest foulups by the Mountaineer defense: linebacker Elige Longino ended up covering the speedy Barnes when freshman cornerback Perlo Bastien apparently blew his coverage.

When the Mountaineers had pulled within 10-3 on a career-high 47-yard field goal by Jay Taylor with 2:24 left in the half, the defense faltered again.

``You wonder how the devil you play defense so good, then all the sudden ...″ West Virginia coach Don Nehlen said.

West Virginia had hoped to shake up Davenport, in his first start because of an injury to all-Atlantic Coast Conference quarterback Chris Keldorf. But WVU’s defense didn’t even faze Davenport on the ensuing drive: He hit two passes for 34 yards, then ran it in from 5 yards out to cap the 58-yard, five-play drive that took only 1:03.

By halftime, North Carolina had passed 200 yards total offense, a barrier only six of West Virginia’s previous 11 opponents were able to crack in an entire game.

Then, when West Virginia’s often sluggish offense erupted to quickly cut the deficit to 7, the Mountaineers’ defense allowed North Carolina to march 65 yards for a 20-yard, momentum-busting field goal.

On that drive, West Virginia’s defenders gave up 30 yards on

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