W. Virginia Faces Quarterback McNabb
Dec. 25, 1997
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ The last time West Virginia played against a quarterback who could run as well as he could throw, it was a game the Mountaineers probably would like to forget.
Behind Donovan McNabb, Syracuse routed the Mountaineers 40-10 on Nov. 1.
In the Carquest Bowl against Georgia Tech, Virginia must defend against Tech's Joe Hamilton.
A 5-foot-10, 190-pound sophomore, Hamilton has passed for 2,314 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is also the team's second-leading rusher with 478 yards and five TDs. He hasn't thrown an interception since Oct. 30 against North Carolina.
``That guy takes a broken play and turns it into a 20-yard gain,'' said West Virginia coach Don Nehlen. ``(Hamilton) has improved so much. He's quicker (than McNabb) but not as big. This Georgia Tech team may be as good as anybody in our league.''
In Georgia Tech's last four games, two of them losses to Virginia and Georgia, Hamilton averaged 293 yards passing, threw six touchdowns and ran for two more.
A quarterback who can run is especially hard on defensive backs, said WVU cornerback Nate Terry, who led the Big East Conference with 11 pass deflections and had four interceptions.
``When they have a nice little combination with a scrambling quarterback, you really have to stay on top of your receivers,'' in case he stops to throw the ball, Terry said.
When he does throw, Hamilton's favorite targets have been wide receivers Harvey Middleton and Derrick Steagall, who have combined for 1,464 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns.
Unlike 1996, when the Mountaineers had one of the nation's best defenses, WVU has given up an average of 218.8 yards passing per game and 21 downs.
Pittsburgh's Pete Gonzalez passed for 279 yards and five touchdowns, including the game-winning score, in a 41-38 triple-overtime victory over WVU in the last game of the regular season.
``You've got to have a short-term memory about some things. We can't be thinking about that game,'' said cornerback Perlo Bastien. ``If we had a good game it would be the same way. You can always have room for improvement.''
West Virginia (7-4) plays Georgia Tech (6-5) Monday in Pro Player Stadium in Miami. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by TBS.