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Modified: January 3, 2008 at 1:09 am •  Published: January 3, 2008
Devine shines in Slaton's absence
West Virginia's Noel Devine removed any doubt about the future of the Mountaineer running game Wednesday.

With one of the nation's most electric tailbacks — Steve Slaton — nursing a first-quarter hamstring injury, the tiny true freshman ran all over the Sooners.

"The guys counted on me to step up so I did what I could,” Devine said. "I got to give a lot of credit to my O-line and Owen Schmitt, who came up with some good blocks.”

Devine finished the night with 108 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, a 7.5-yard per carry average. That's slightly less than his regular season average of 8.3 yards per carry.

"The No. 1 thing was definitely tackling,” OU linebacker Curtis Lofton said. "I mean, the credit goes to Pat White and (Devine). They are great players and make a lot of guys miss.

"Everybody took their turn, gap off here, gap off there and we increased a couple times and then made plays.”

Devine also had 88 yards on kickoff returns.

•Bradford's bumpy start: Sam Bradford's cool head was rattled by the Mountaineers.

Without primary target Malcolm Kelly and forced to stare down the West Virginia blitz on almost every play, the Sooners' redshirt freshman struggled early in the Fiesta Bowl. The NCAA leader in passing efficiency went 2-of-6 with an interception in the first quarter.

On OU's deepest drive into Mountaineer territory, Bradford was intercepted by a diving Quinton Andrews, ending the Sooners' best shot at the end zone in the first half.

"I just wasn't myself, wasn't going through the reads, just forcing things, didn't hit the throws and when I had the throw, I didn't make it,” Bradford said. "I've just got to come out better prepared.”

Bradford finished the game 21-of-33 for 242 yards and two TDs. He was sacked three times.

•Turnover on downs Brown: In the first of several puzzling play calls, Oklahoma elected to rush Chris Brown on fourth-and-1 at its own 45-yard line with a minute left in the second quarter.

Brown was stuffed and West Virginia took over on downs.

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