PISCATAWAY, N.J. - For the longest time Saturday afternoon, West Virginia looked a lot like it did a week ago against Syracuse. And that, of course, was not good.
Keep in mind, though, the opponent on this day was Rutgers, and the Mountaineers always figure out a way to beat Rutgers.
This time it was by doing a defensive about-face in the second half and then getting enough offense to make a difference. The result was a 41-31 win in awful snow and cold and wind at RU's High Point Solutions Stadium, WVU's 17th straight over the Scarlet Knights.
The win was a much-needed one for the No. 25 Mountaineers (6-2, 2-1 Big East), who for a while looked in danger of a repeat of last week's 49-23 embarrassment at Syracuse. The Mountaineer defense gave up 31 first-half points and trailed 31-21.
But that defense did a 180-degree turn in the second half, shutting down Rutgers (5-3, 2-2) and shutting the Knights out. WVU scored a touchdown early in the second half to get close, then two in the final seven minutes of the game to put it away.
Rutgers gained just 165 yards in the second half in front of what was left of a crowd of 47,303 that wasn't driven home by the weather.
Adjustments? Well, yes, there were a few of those. Linebacker Najee Goode said the Mountaineers tweaked their run defense a bit, and RU did gain just 45 rushing yards in the second half after getting 101 in the first.
But more than anything it was effort, the same thing coach Dana Holgorsen has talked about since last weekend's debacle at the Carrier Dome. That and overcoming adversity.
"We've been talking about adversity all week. Adversity happens in every game you play. We got challenged,'' a soaked Holgorsen said after a game that lasted nearly four hours in constant snow showers. "I was proud of how we went out on all three sides of the ball [after halftime]. We played harder than they did.
"Not to take anything away from Rutgers because their effort was tremendous and we knew it would be, but we felt like we went out and outplayed them in the second half.''
West Virginia actually wasn't outplayed that badly in the first. Rutgers took advantage of a strong wind, field position and some breaks because of the wet and cold in the first quarter, scoring a field goal after a 26-yard punt out of the end zone into the wind and a touchdown after West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith simply dropped the ball deep in his own end of the field and Rutgers recovered at the 11.
Even the TD, a 14-yard pass from freshman Gary Nova to Mohamed Sanu on third-and-13, would have been reduced to a field goal try had Sanu not run through a tackle by Keith Tandy just beyond the line of scrimmage.