MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Patrick White’s 50-yard touchdown run with 1:36 left gave West Virginia a 38-31 victory over Louisville Thursday night at Milan Puskar Stadium.
The sixth-rated Mountaineers appeared to be control of the game midway through the third quarter, taking a 17-point lead on safety Eric Wicks’ 44-yard fumble return for a touchdown. But Louisville answered with 17 consecutive points, aided by a pair of West Virginia fumbles. The Cardinals eventually tied the game at 31 with 3:05 remaining on Art Carmody’s 37-yard field goal.
“As I told the team, I would rather win ugly than lose pretty,” West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez said. “We certainly made enough mistakes to last the whole season but we know we are going to take a good shot from everybody. I am happy for the win.”
West Virginia led 21-14 at the half and got a surge of momentum to open the third quarter when Noel Devine returned the opening kickoff 41 yards to the Louisville 45. From there the Mountaineers moved 34 yards to the Louisville 11 before settling for Pat McAfee’s 28-yard field goal to make the score 24-14.
After holding the Cardinals three and out on the ensuing possession, West Virginia took over at its own 48 but only managed 11 yards before White fumbled and Louisville’s Earl Heyman recovered at the Louisville 34.
The Cardinals moved to the WVU 45 and faced a 3rd and 8 play. John Holmes sacked Brian Brohm. The ball came free and Wicks returned the bouncing ball 44 yards for the touchdown to give the Mountaineers a 31-14 lead with 6:54 left in the third quarter.
A Steve Slaton fumble on the Mountaineers’ next possession set up the Cardinals at the WVU 46. Louisville used eight plays to move the ball the 46 yards and Brock Bolen pounded in from two yards out to cut the lead to 31-21 with 55 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Cardinals faced a pivotal 3rd and goal from the 17-yard line on the drive and were aided by a pass interference call on Ryan Mundy that gave them first and goal at the two-yard line.
The Mountaineers were forced to punt on their next possession and actually went through a stretch in the second half where six consecutive possessions netted just 82 yards and produced three punts and three fumbles.
West Virginia stalled out again, facing a 4th and 2 at the Louisville 42 yard line midway through the fourth quarter. Owen Schmitt’s pooch punt netted just nine yards and Louisville was in business at its own 33. A 12-yard reception by Harry Douglas and a 23-yard catch by Mario Urrutia moved the ball to the WVU 27. A pass interference call up the left sideline on Ellis Lankster placed the ball at the 13 and then Brohm found Urrutia in the back left corner of the end zone to cut the lead to 31-28 with 10:32 to play.
West Virginia began milking the clock, running White on seven of eight plays on the drive with a Schmitt run thrown in. The Mountaineers eventually stalled at the Louisville 42 but the drive did kill four minutes of clock and when McAfee’s punt was downed at the Cardinal eight-yard line only 6:11 remained.
On the very next play Wicks made a gorgeous interception of a deep ball intended for Douglas. Mundy deflected the ball and Wicks made a diving grab at the Louisville 46. Just when it appeared West Virginia might escape, the fumble bug struck again when White coughed up the ball and Lou Mitchell recovered at the Cardinal 38-yard line.
From there Brohm used five plays to advance the ball 42 yards and Carmody’s 37-yard field goal tied the score at 31-31. West Virginia took over at its own 35 and White had redemption in mind.
After a holding call gave the Mountaineers a 1st and 20 at the 38, the Daphne Ala. native completed a 12-yard pass to Dorrell Jalloh to the 50-yard line, before stepping up in the pocket on 2nd and 8, racing 50 yards to keep West Virginia’s BIG EAST Championship and BCS bowl hopes alive.
“He’s a great football player and he just made a play at the end to win it,” Louisville Coach Steve Kragthorpe said. “Their offense has a quarterback that is so dynamic. He plays with his feet and throws the ball well. He does a good job of making people miss and when he took off I just held my breath.”
Brohm was once again terrific against West Virginia, completing 27-of-46 for 345 yards and two touchdowns. The Mountaineers are going to be happy to see him move on to professional football. The senior has passed for 976 yards and five touchdowns in three career games against West Virginia.
White came through when the Mountaineers needed him most, shaking off a pair of fumbles to finish the night passing for 181 yards and two touchdowns and running 24 times for 147 yards and a score.
White had 328 yards of total offense and has now had back-to-back 300-yard total offensive performances against Rutgers and Louisville. West Virginia improves to (8-1, 3-1) to remain a half-game behind BIG EAST-leading Connecticut, undefeated at 4-0 heading into Saturday night’s game at Cincinnati.
“We are going to work on ball security,” Rodriguez said. “We play one of the best teams that force turnovers (Cincinnati) and we need to prepare.” Louisville slips to 5-5 under first-year coach Kragethorpe.
WV - Reynaud 7 pass from White (McAfee kick)
WV - Reynaud 9 pass from White (McAfee kick)
UL - Barnidge 16 pass from Brohm (Carmody kick)
WV - Slaton 1 run (McAfee kick)
UL - Brohm 1 run (Carmody kick)
WV - McAfee 28 FG
WV - Wicks 44 fumble return (McAfee kick)
UL - Bolen 2 run (Carmody kick)
UL - Urrutia 12 pass from Brohm (McAfee kick)
UL - Carmody 37 FG
WV - White 50 run (McAfee kick)
RUSHING: WV – White 24-147, Slaton 17-60, Devine 2-11, Schmitt 2-5, Reynaud 1- -7, Total 46-216; UL – Stripling 12-23, Bolen 4-13, Allen 2-5, Brohm 9- -4, Total 27-37
PASSING: WV – White 16-25-0-181-2; UL – Brohm 27-46-2-345-2
RECEIVING: WV – Reynaud 6-79, Sanders 2-32, Gonzales 2-28, Slaton 2-14, Jalloh 1-12, Hogan 1-11, Devine 1-4, Schmitt 1-1, Total 16-181; UL Stripling 8-105, Douglas 7-98, Barnidge 6-76, Urrutia 3-54, Long 2-8, Carter 1-4, Total 27-345