The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

May 3, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN - Devine star of loaded backfield

MORGANTOWN —  

This was a case of where the expected became the unexpected, and therefore it became news.

The best player on the field during West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Friday night — which by the way was successful enough for WVU to try it again next year, probably on a Saturday night — was one you would expect not to play much, if at all.

His name is Noel Devine and he’s a senior with absolutely nothing to prove on a Friday night in April.

Yet there he was, slashing away as he always does, picking up yards where there were no, turning on the jets to get around a player on the outside after making a slight move to the inside.

Considering that the man expected to quarterback the team in the fall, Geno Smith, was incapacitated by a foot injury, Devine didn’t even have to smooth out the timing between himself and the new QB.

He finished the night having played the entire first half, the leading rusher with 73 yards, scoring a touchdown, looking as though he was on the verge breaking another on two or three occasions. His 19-yard run was the game’s longest and his 6.1 per carry average was exactly what you’d expect.

More important than all that, though, was the zeal with which he attacked this game, playing like a freshman trying to earn a spot on the travel squad.

"Looked to me like he was a man on a mission," West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart said. "That cat gave great, great, great effort. He was having fun, he was a leader. I thought he played really, really good and hard. That was the key, he played hard."

Indeed, Devine suddenly is emerging as the kind of personality that Avon Cobourne used to be, back when he was getting the ball over and over, putting the team on his back and asking them to follow. He has morphed from a seemingly quiet kid who, when interviewed, would draw the questioners closer and closer just to hear what he was whispering.

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