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WVU football: Irvin reaches double figures in sacks

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Defensive end Bruce Irvin had two sacks in Saturday's 17-10 win at Louisville to become the first West Virginia player to reach double figures since Gary Stills had 10 in 1998.

"I've got chills running through my body," said Irvin, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound junior college transfer in his first season with the Mountaineers.

"It feels so good, but I know I'm blessed. It isn't just me. It's a lot of other people coming up. It's everybody. It isn't just me doing it. It's like everything else. It's about everyone contributing."

Irvin has been a specialist this season and played almost exclusively on third down. He played a number of second-down snaps against the Cardinals - and made one of his sacks on a second-down play - after WVU correctly predicted Louisville would pass a lot because the running game was going nowhere."It's pretty easy," Irvin said. "They can't drop back as fast as I can run forward."

Irvin is now one of six players nationally with at least 10 sacks. He ranks No. 5 nationally - behind Marshall's Vinny Curry - and leads the Big East with 1.0 sacks per game.

"I went over to him one time and said, 'Buddy, I just love watching you play,' " Coach Bill Stewart said. "I don't get a chance to watch a lot of guys during the game because there's so many, but every now and then I cut my eyes over and see him."

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LOUISVILLE MANAGED two rarities against WVU. In the second quarter, Cardinals punter Chris Philpott ran 21 yards for a first down on a fake punt. It was the first successful fake punt against WVU since Navy pulled it off in 1998.

Louisville Coach Charlie Strong said it was something the coaching staff saw on film and then installed and worked on during the week. Stewart said WVU had a player line up in the wrong position and the mistake caused Stewart to keep his defense on the field to cover punts the rest of the game.

Also in the second quarter, WVU quarterback Geno Smith was sacked at his 5-yard line when Louisville defensive end Rodney Gnat ran around left tackle Don Barclay. Smith fumbled and it was recovered in the end zone by linebacker Daniel Brown for the team's only touchdown.

The last time an opponent recovered or returned a fumble for a touchdown against WVU was USF's George Selvie in 2006.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen said WVU was giving right tackle Jeff Braun extra assistance on the play and that tactic left Barclay alone.

"Our best offensive lineman got beat by their best defensive end," Stewart said. "They got a touchdown out of it. The kid didn't mean to get beat. You can't win every single slug out there. It's an 80-slug fight. You can't win all 80. They're going to beat you."

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RUNNING BACK Shawne Alston, who had a career-best game last week against Cincinnati with 17 carries for 75 yards, carried twice for 5 yards in the first half against Louisville. The offense struggled to run against blitzes and kept trying in hopes it'd break one play. Sometimes the Mountaineers came close.

WVU reintroduced a set with Smith and Noel Devine in the shotgun backfield and a teammate in a wingback position behind the guard or tackle on the right side. Against Louisville fullback Ryan Clarke played the wing.

"The first time we called it, he lined up wrong. I almost went out and choked him - can I say that?" Stewart said.

Stewart hoped Clarke could get a block up front and get Devine to the second level, where an offensive lineman would make a block and leave Devine one-on-one with a safety. One time it nearly worked before right guard Eric Jobe got in the way.

"Eric Jobe tackled him," Stewart said of the right guard. "Honest to God, I wanted to cry."

Alston eventually came in late and carried give times for 31 yards on WVU's penultimate drive that ended with a blocked field goal with 2:22 to go.

"I wanted to save it for the four-minute offense," Stewart said. "If they scored, we have to have a two-minute offense. I didn't want our spread guys thinking we were done in case we needed the two-minute offense."

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LOUISVILLE RAN the ball 30 times for 26 yards and one rush was Philpott's 21-yard gain. Running back Bilal Powell, who was No. 5 nationally with 134.11 yards per game, carried four times for no yards. Louisville Coach Charlie Strong said Powell was sick and fatigued.

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RECEIVER JOCK Sanders caught two passes for 11 yards and tied David Saunders for first-place on the school's career reception list. Sanders' no-yard gain in the second quarter matched the 191 catches Saunders had with the Mountaineers.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at or 304-319-1142.


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