By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
July 2, 2010
It’s usually not very easy getting South Florida coach Jim Leavitt to agree to anything. But even the fiery Leavitt understood what quarterback Pat White had meant to the Big East football conference, White leading West Virginia to BCS bowl victories in 2006 and 2008 when the conference was on less than stable footing.
So when Bill Stewart asked Leavitt if he would mind having his team wear their home green jerseys instead of their customary road whites so WVU could properly honor White’s final home game with a “White Out”, Leavitt gladly obliged.
Rolling over and letting West Virginia win the football game … well, that was another matter entirely.
In fact, Leavitt had West Virginia’s number. In 2006 when the Mountaineers were still in contention for the league title, Leavitt’s Bulls came into Morgantown and beat the seventh-rated Mountaineers 24-19.
A year later in 2007, fifth-rated West Virginia went down to Tampa wearing their New York Yankee ball caps looking for some redemption. But once again, Leavitt’s defense shut down WVU in a 21-13 South Florida victory. In both instances, Leavitt’s defense locked down West Virginia’s outside receivers and focused on tackling the Mountaineers’ big playmakers in open space.
In 2008, it was much the same – West Virginia finished the game with only 280 yards of offense, but the Mountaineers got a tremendous effort from Jeff Casteel’s defense (with eight new starters that season) to pull out a 13-7 victory on a snow covered Milan Puskar Stadium turf.
“Tonight we had to reach down into our guts to win a football game,” said Stewart.
South Florida had four red-zone scoring opportunities turned away, including a fourth and 12 from the WVU 17 on the next to last play of the game. With 30 seconds remaining and South Florida sitting at the WVU 12, J.T. Thomas sacked Bulls quarterback Matt Grothe. Then Mortty Ivy’s tackle for a loss pushed the ball back to the 17 to bring up fourth down.
On USF’s final play, Grothe’s pass intended for Taurus Johnson was broken up in the back of the end zone by Ellis Lankster and Boogie Allen.
White took a knee to run out the clock, and then took a ride around the stadium in a golf cart to thank the 48,019 that braved the harsh winter conditions to celebrate his final game in Morgantown.
White’s final numbers at Milan Puskar Stadium: 14 of 23 for 141 yards and a touchdown passing and 15 carries for 40 yards rushing.
For Stewart, it was a satisfying victory during an otherwise difficult first year coaching the Mountaineers.
“I’m very proud of this football team and I’m very proud of this football staff,” Stewart said. “It may not have been the greatest of years in some people’s standards and I’m not a big stat guy, but maybe some of you guys with a little time on your hands can look up and see what happens during transition years.”
West Virginia gives quarterback Pat White a memorable sendoff