If Noel Devine keeps running the way he is, Steve Slaton is going to lead the nation in scoring.

If that sounds confusing, it really isn’t. You see, West Virginia University coach Rich Rodriguez has discovered a two-headed monster at tailback in the mercurial freshman and the All-American Slaton.

Alone, each is a sight to behold, Slaton with his speed and Devine with his moves.

Together, they are smoother than peanut butter and jelly, more dangerous than a match and gasoline.

That was the lesson Maryland learned on Thursday night as the Terrapins were dazzled by both running backs in a 31-14 WVU victory that gave the Mountaineers a 23-21-2 lead in the series as it goes into a hiatus that will last at least two years.

Make no doubt that the pecking order remains as it was when the season started, with Slaton the featured running back. Slaton continues to put tremendous pressure on defenses that are geared to key on him, constantly pounding away, taking advantage of any crease he can find.

But when he needs a breather, Rodriguez snaps a finger at his freshman prodigy and Devine heads onto the field to give an entirely different look to the WVU spread offense.

“Noel gave us a big lift tonight,” said Rodriguez.

The wraps came off last week at Marshall when Devine came on late to rush for 76 yards on five carries, twice taking the ball into the end zone.

That, though, was just the beginning.

In this one his services were needed at a far more critical juncture in the game.

Twice he had run back kickoffs, each time for 26 yards, and he had caught a pass for only a yard before Rodriguez decided to spell Slaton and give Devine the football out of the backfield.

The second half had just begun and WVU was clinging to a narrow 14-7 lead.

With a first down at the Maryland 32, White handed the ball to Devine who slid through a hole on the right side, made a slithery move to his left and seemed headed to the end zone, only to be dragged down with less than 3 feet to go for a touchdown.

Exit Devine, enter Slaton.

Two plays later Slaton went behind one of those blocks by Owen Schmitt that qualify for entrance into the International House of Pancakes Hall of Fame, burying cornerback Kevin Barnes and scored his second touchdown of the game.

His first had been on a 22-yard run around left end that was vintage Slaton, feeling his way until a crease opened down the left sideline. Slaton saw that crease and his eyes had to become as large as silver dollars. He turned on the afterburners and was only a blur as he crossed the goal line.

It was in the closing minutes of the third quarter that Devine was again given the football, this time on his own 23 with the lead standing at 21-7.

Taking off around the right side, Devine broke through an attempt to trip him up at his ankle and found himself in the clear, motoring down the sideline as fast as those little leg on his 5-foot, 8-inch body would take him.

It appeared that he would carry it into the end zone but it turned out he was simply setting the table for Slaton again. The aforementioned Barnes, his head clear from the Schmitt block by now, had an angle and just enough speed to pull Devine down again at the 1.

“I saw him coming out of the corner of my eye,” Devine said. “I thought I’d make it into the end zone. But all I really care about is scoring as a team.”

The run tied the longest non-scoring run in WVU history.

Devine had gained 107 yards on two carries at this point and all he had to show for it was 53.5 yard average but no points.

Slaton took care of the touchdown, his third of the game and his ninth of the season. He now has 41 rushing touchdowns in his last 23 games.

Two long Devine runs, two Slaton touchdowns.

“Hopefully, he’ll get a few of his own touchdowns and be right there next to me,” said Slaton.

Slaton, who has authored quite a novel throughout his career, now was crossing Devine’s t’s and dotting his I’s, too.

As it was, Slaton had quite an evening himself, putting up yet another 100-yard rushing game with 137 yards on 26 carries. Devine finished with 136 yards on five carries, averaging 27.2 yards per carry.

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