One for Stew
By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
January 3, 2008
GLENDALE, Ariz. – It turns out West Virginia really didn’t need Rich Rodriguez after all – not when you’ve got Patrick White, Noel Devine and Owen Schmitt on the field. Those three - and many more - helped West Virginia roll to a 48-28 victory over No. 3-rated Oklahoma in the 37th annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
As the clock wound down there were hugs all around on the West Virginia sidelines – junior defensive end Johnny Dingle embracing WVU Director of Athletics Ed Pastilong, the man who made the decision to select Bill Stewart as the interim coach - and the team giving Stewart a Gatorade bath and a ride off the field. It was truly a victory for all West Virginians after the black December the program had endured.
"I have never had a Gatorade bath," said Stewart. "For all those assistant coaches out there that are better than me, that was for you."
The Mountaineers (11-2) rolled up 525 yards of offense including 349 on the ground against a nationally ranked Oklahoma defense that allowed just 91.9 yards per game this season. That total matched USC’s 525 yards of offense allowed by Oklahoma’s defense in 55-19 loss to the Trojans in the 2005 Orange Bowl.
The Sooners have faced some great offenses in the Big 12 but it’s safe to assume that they certainly haven’t seen anyone quite like White, Devine and Schmitt.
"They played an excellent football game, really beat us in the offensive and defensive side of the football and, you know, in every part of the game," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. "They just definitely out-coached us and out-played us; were more physical, more disciplined in all parts of the game."
White carried 20 times for 150 yards and Devine finished with 108 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns, entering the game late in the first quarter after Steve Slaton injured his hamstring. Slaton spent the rest of the game on the bench with his shoulder pads off.
Owen Schmitt added 64 yards on just three carries.
The run that got things going for West Virginia was Schmitt’s 57-yard scamper with 6:29 left in the second quarter that opened up the Mountaineers’ lead to 13-3. West Virginia got another TD with 2:27 left in the first half when White hooked up with Darius Reynaud on a 21-yard score.
WVU led the Sooners 20-6 in the first half and could have had three more if not for Pat McAfee’s 42-yard field goal attempt that was blocked at the end of the half.
It was White’s passing, especially down the field, that made West Virginia a completely different football team than the one that laid an egg against Pittsburgh in Morgantown on Dec. 1.
"I'm very impressed with White," said Stoops. "Coming in I knew he was an excellent player and he did a great job of seeing what was there."
White’s biggest pass play of the game came in the fourth quarter after Oklahoma had pulled to within 13, 34-21. White faked a reverse and flipped a pretty pass down the seam to Tito Gonzales, who broke free for a 79-yard touchdown. It was the longest pass play in bowl history for the Mountaineers.
Four minutes later, West Virginia also got the longest TD run in its bowl history when Devine took a toss sweep, slipped a pair of tackles, and broke free for a 65-yard run.
That score really stabilized a game that was never quite out of reach for the No. 3-rated Sooners, now losers of four straight BCS bowl games.
"We give up a fullback belly. We have a zone blitz on and the blitz off the corner goes too deep, runs past it and the linebacker doesn't scrape outside - so they get a long run off the blitz," Stoops said.
"The other one - we don't cover the route down the middle," Stoops said. "We get sucked up with the play action fake. And then the second half - the pass over to (Marcus) Walker on the first play - that was just man coverage. He gets caught, doesn't stay inside, our guys ends up getting behind and dives for the ball and gives up a big play."
Sooner quarterback Sam Bradford completed 21 of 33 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns – one to Jauquin Iglesias and the other to Quentin Chaney.
Chris Brown also reached the end zone on a 1-yard run, and Garret Hartley kicked three field goals.
The Sooners missed a pair of two-point conversions and were chasing points the entire game.
Oklahoma (11-3) also was unsuccessful on an onside kick that gave West Virginia great field position after the Sooners had pulled to within five, 20-15, and had forced the Mountaineers to punt two straight times.
White, the game MVP, finished the game 10 of 19 for 176 yards and a pair of scores. He also was named MVP of West Virginia’s 38-35 Toyota Gator Bowl victory over Georgia Tech last year.
West Virginia has now won bowl games and will finish ranked in the Top 10 for three straight years – a first in program history. It was also the third straight BCS bowl game victory for the Big East Conference – West Virginia in the 2006 Nokia Sugar Bowl Louisville in the 2007 Orange Bowl and West Virginia again in the 2008 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Stewart was also the only interim coach to win a bowl game this year – interim coaches were 0-6 in bowl games this season.
West Virginia must now figure out who will coach a football team that potentially returns nine offensive starters including a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in White.
Whoever that person is will be taking over an outstanding football team.
WV – McAfee 38 FG
RUSHING: WV - White 20-150, Devine 13-108, Schmitt 3-64, Reynaud 1-30, Sanders 1-minus 1, Slaton 1-minus 2, Total 39-349; OKLA - Patrick 14-82, Brown 16-50, Madu 5-43, Guiterrez 1-3, Bradford 7-minus 1, Total 43-177.
PASSING: WV - White 10-19-0-176-2; OKLA - Bradford 21-33-1-242-2.
RECEIVING: WV - Reynaud 5-42, Devine 2-47, Gonzales 1-79, Sanders 1-6, Slaton 1-2, Total 10-176; OKLA - Iglesias 8-53, Chaney 4-129, Johnson 4-25, Gresham 3-34, Finley 1-4, Patrick 1-minus 3, Total 21-242.
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