By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
August 31, 2008
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In the past West Virginia quarterback Pat White has drawn comparisons to Vince Young. On Saturday White looked more like Steve Young. The senior stood tall in the pocket, found second and third receivers, ran for first downs when he had to and operated Jeff Mullen’s controlled passing offense to near perfection.
White misfired on only eight of 33 passes (25 of 33) with seven of those incomplete passes either being dropped or deflected off of a teammate’s shoulder pads. White’s lone interception was the result of a pass right on the money that Brad Starks couldn’t handle and the deflection fell right into the hands of Villanova defender Frederick Maldonaldo.
White had career highs in passing attempts, completions and touchdown passes. It was a passing performance reminiscent of Marc Bulger, whose career total offensive record White happened to break yesterday.
White's five touchdown passes against Villanova were a Mountaineer Field record and fell one shy of Bulger’s school record of six produced against Pitt in 1998. If anything, White has now shown on film that defenses are going to have to respect the entire field of play.
“I think it’s going to back them up a little bit,” White said. “They may still come with 18 guys in the box and one safety but we’ll see what happens.”
Villanova put everyone up on the line of scrimmage on Saturday to stop West Virginia’s running game and Mullen refused to run the ball into nine-man fronts.
“Clearly with their game plan they were going to make Pat beat them with his arm and I thought he did a good job today,” he said.
Two of White’s five touchdown passes couldn’t have been thrown any better – the first one a 24-yard slant to Alric Arnett when the ball was placed low and away where only Arnett could catch it and his last when White dropped the ball right into the bucket to Jock Sanders in the corner of the end zone.
If Peyton Manning made those passes people would have been impressed. Aside from his accuracy, Mullen was most pleased with White’s command of the field.
“I was pleased with his decision making. Fundamentally and athletically, the kid has been blessed before I ever got a hold of him,” Mullen said. “I was just real happy with where his eyes went to on every pass play in order for those completions to occur.
“I was happy with the way he read coverage, the way he handled protection and of course the way he delivered the ball,” Mullen said.
And White can still tuck the ball under his shoulder and run it when he needs to. Once on third and 12 White correctly read the defense, saw all of his receivers covered, and darted away for a 13-yard gain. His longest run of the afternoon was 15 yards.
“I’m a guru right?” Mullen joked. “There were a number of times today and during Patrick’s career when you go, ‘Wow, that wasn’t a very good call and then old 5 gets you out of that bind. He’s certainly a blessing to coach.
“We don’t call plays to try and have Pat scramble and run but we know in the back of our heads that those are the best quarterback draws. I often feel like when you do throw the ball if he does check it down to himself when everything is covered and he runs … I told him it will keep me calling pass plays,” Mullen said. “But if he forces them into coverage we just can’t do that and beat ourselves.”
Alric Arnett was one of those benefitting from White’s arm on Saturday. Arnett, who caught 4 passes for 70 yards and a pair of touchdowns, said he noticed a difference in Pat White’s passing this summer.
“It comes with confidence. He’s more confident with his throwing,” Arnett said. “He’s put in the work and he’s watched the film. He always had it in him – even last season.”
White says Jeff Mullen has helped him a great deal with his throwing mechanics.
“He’s helped me a lot. Little things I guess can turn into big things,” White said. “He’s worked with us a lot on the little things and it happened to be a big day for us passing.”
Next week or the week after that if teams begin to play more honest on defense, Mullen said his play calling will change.
“We want to be a gun-option football team. We want to run the zone but unfortunately today for us the opponent wouldn’t allow us to do that,” he said. “I was happy with the way we threw it and we want to be a good throw team. I did not come into the game with any thought process of throwing it a bunch, especially when we got the lead. I did not want to continue to throw it but we felt there was a faster chance of a three-and-out if we ran it as opposed to throwing it.”
Arnett expects teams to continue to load the box and stop the run.
“Teams are still going to load the box because we have the greatest one-two running punch in college football in Pat White and Noel Devine,” Arnett said. “Once those guys load the box to try and stop those guys that’s when we’re going to try and hit you over the top.
“That was just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve got a lot more of that,” Arnett said.
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