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Wilson leads West Virginia resurgence

11/21/2003

At 5-foot-9, West Virginia running back Quincy Wilson doesn't find any shortage
of defensive players willing to challenge him. They quickly learn to pick on
someone there own size.

Miami's Brandon Meriweather knows. Earlier this season, the Hurricanes'
safety got knocked back five yards and then was run over after trying to bring
down the 210-pound Wilson with a shoulder-high tackle. Virginia Tech linebacker
Brandon Manning got a dose of that same medicine in the Mountaineers' 28-7
upset victory on Oct. 22.

"My dad always told me to deliver the blows," Wilson said. "He'd say, 'Hit
them before they hit you.' That wears on people."

Wilson's dad knows something about hitting. Otis Wilson was one of the
NFL's top linebackers in the mid-'80s while playing with the Chicago Bears. The
elder Wilson was so ferocious, he earned the moniker, 'The Junkyard Dog.'

Like father, like son.

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    "The one time I don't run somebody over, he's like, 'What happened on that
    one play when you had a chance to run that guy over and you didn't?'" Quincy
    Wilson said.

    Otis Wilson hasn't had much to complain about this season. Quincy has run
    through, over and around defenders all year. With two games left to play,
    Wilson ranks third in the Big East and 10th nationally with an average of 122.6
    yards per game. He's rushed for 1,226 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    Wilson has been one of the most important ingredients in the Mountaineers'
    current five-game win streak and that has West Virginia tied for first place
    in the Big East and vying for the school's second conference championship.

    In those five victories, Wilson has rushed for 771 yards. That included
    last week's career-best outing of 208 yards and four touchdowns during the 52-31
    blowout of Pittsburgh in the 'Backyard Brawl' at Mountaineer Field. Wilson,
    who carried the ball 34 times, scored three consecutive touchdowns in the
    second half that turned a close game into a rout.

    Wilson said he told West Virginia's coaches leading up to the Pittsburgh
    game that he was prepared to carry the ball 40 times if needed.

    "Of course the coaches were like, 'Uh, we're going to feed you the ball,
    but we don't want you carrying it that much,'" Wilson said.

    As it turned out, neither did the Panthers who found no formula to stop
    Wilson's punishing runs, which allowed the Mountaineers to rush for 307 yards.

    "Quincy Wilson is a tremendous football player," said Pittsburgh coach Walt
    Harris. "He's not only fast, but he's physical too. He may be the best
    running back in the league."

    Nobody was using those words after West Virginia's 15-13 loss to Cincinnati
    on Sept. 13. Wilson managed only 39 yards on 18 carries and fumbled three
    times as the Mountaineers fell to 1-2.

    "It was almost like a nightmare," said WVU coach Rich Rodriguez. "We
    couldn't believe what was happening. Even in practice, I couldn't remember the last
    time Quincy fumbled. We knew it was something that was a one-time thing. We
    knew he wasn't going to go in the tank. He's a tough-minded guy."

    Wilson's turnaround, and that of West Virginia, wasn't immediate.

    The week after the Cincinnati game, the Mountaineers were manhandled by
    Maryland in a 34-7 loss. Wilson ran 20 times for 71 yards.

    "It looked like we never played football before," said Wilson, a native of
    Weirton, W. Va. "It was a game we wish we had never played. All the seniors
    talked to the team and said, 'We're going down to Miami. If we play lke this,
    we're going to get beat 100-0.' We got refocused, especially myself."

    West Virginia didn't beat No. 2 Miami, dropping a 22-20 decision on a field
    goal with 11 seconds to play. But the gutsy performance against the
    Hurricanes gave the Mountaineers confidence they could hang with any team in the
    nation. They haven't lost a game since and nobody has found a way to stop Wilson.

    "He runs with a lot of passion and doesn't waste a lot of motion,"

    Rodriguez said. "We always talk to our guys about running north and south. He's the
    epitome of that. He's going to run the shortest distance to the goal line.

    "He one of those guys that likes to get lathered up and likes to keep
    bringing it."

    Wilson's performance this season is no surprise. As an understudy to Avon
    Cobourne last season, Wilson finished eighth in the Big East with 901 rushing
    yards. His per-carry average of 6.4 yards was the best in the conference.

    It's been more of the same this season.

    "He's had a couple of big games lately, but he's really run hard all year,"
    Rodriguez said.

    West Virginia's opponents -- like Meriweather and Manning -- will second
    that.

    Jorge Milian covers the Big East for the Palm Beach Post.