By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
November 22, 2008
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia coach Bill Stewart is fond of saying his quarterback Pat White is the great winner in college football today. After White’s 200-yard rushing performance against Louisville, at the very least White can now be called the greatest running quarterback in NCAA history.
||In four career games against Louisville quarterback Pat White has been responsible for 1,115 yards of offense and 12 touchdowns.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
White came into today’s game needing 197 yards to tie Brad Smith’s record of 4,289 career rushing yards set in 2005. He wound up getting 200.
The way West Virginia has been running White this year some were concerned if the senior was going to be able to get it at all. He ran for just 41 yards in an overtime loss to Cincinnati and has only reached the 100-yard barrier twice this season.
White’s 586 yards heading into the Louisville game was well off the pace he set in 2007 when he ran for 1,335 yards or his sophomore season when he rushed for 1,219 yards.
But on a crisp autumn day suited for running, White turned on the jets to the tune of 200 yards. His three touchdown runs covered 66, 43 and seven yards. The NCAA record breaker came on a four-yard sweep to his left with 5:38 remaining in the game.
“I told the team in the locker room that number five became the all-time leading rushing quarterback in NCAA history,” Stewart said. “You all witnessed something special today that we may not see again in our lifetime. Maybe the spread offense helped make that happen, but it’s going to be tough for someone to do that again.”
White also became the most prolific touchdown producer in Big East history, passing Donovan McNabb’s 10-year league record of 96 touchdowns responsible for. White’s five TDs today gives him 98 for his career.
White’s performance came against the nation’s No. 8-ranked defense against the run permitting just 98 yards per game. The Cardinal run defense will not be ranked in the top 10 on Sunday.
Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe will be happy to see a cap and gown on White, who has produced some ridiculous numbers against the Cardinal defense in four career games.
“Pat’s a phenomenal player,” said Kragthorpe. “We had him dead-to-right a couple of times and he got away. We knew coming into the game we had to stop Pat but we didn’t do that.”
Against Louisville White has rushed for 541 yards and scored eight touchdowns, completed 40 of 67 passes for 574 yards and four touchdowns and has accumulated 1,115 yards of total offense. That averages out to three touchdowns and 278.8 yards per game, and 9.4 yards per play.
More impressively, White did not throw a single pick in 67 pass attempts against Louisville.
“I just took some of your-all’s advice and just put the ball in number five’s hands,” Stewart joked.
White said he will sit down and consider what he has achieved at the end of the season.
“Right now I’m going to enjoy my last two,” he said.
I am interested to hear what the interpretation from the Big East replay official was on why a touchdown was not awarded to Jarrett Brown on the third-and-goal quarterback sneak right before the end of the half. If his answer is because he could not see the football, my answer is it’s because it was two-feet past the goal line sandwiched between three Louisville defenders. And why didn’t the line judge hustle into the pile to make sure where the football was?
Thankfully the call did not have an impact on the outcome of the game.
By the way, the replay officials got it right on Devine’s fourth-and-goal run that was overturned upstairs. Devine’s knee touched the turf just before he extended the ball over the goal line.
“We couldn’t have called a better play, couldn’t have had better blocking and he could have walked in,” Stewart said. “But the poor little guy tripped. We didn’t lie down and start bickering, carrying on and complaining with each other after that.”
One of the criticisms first-year Louisville defensive coordinator Ron English had when he was coordinating Michigan’s defense was an inability to handle the spread offense. On Saturday, English’s unit allowed a season-high 498 yards of offense including 376 on the ground by the Mountaineers.
“Everything we worked for and saw on film they gave us,” said White.
Bill Stewart was upset with his team’s performance at halftime, specifically its short yardage running. The Mountaineers had seven cracks inside the Cardinal 10 yard line on its final two possessions of the first half and failed to get any points.
West Virginia was able to use 220-pound backup quarterback Jarrett Brown in certain situations but its short-yardage running woes will not be entirely cured until it can produce a big, physical tailback to go with a reliable fullback.
“I was so frustrated at the half to have 215 yards rushing and have two blown opportunities,” Stewart said. “I wish I knew the formula. All we can do is go back and strain a little harder and try again.”
The game turned on the 14 straight points West Virginia scored in a span of two minutes early in the third quarter. At that point the Mountaineers had a 21-7 lead and that forced Louisville to go away from a between-the-tackle running game that produced most of its 198 rushing yards in the first half.
“They took the opening drive down and scored, and then on our drive we get the first down yardage and fumble,” Kragthorpe said. “The margin of error when you’re playing good teams like West Virginia is very, very small so you’ve got to make sure you’re capitalizing on every situation and we’re not doing that.”
Kragthorpe said his coaches saw things they could exploit in West Virginia’s defense in the run game.
“We did a great job of running the ball. That was something I knew coming into the game we’d be able to do,” Kragthorpe said. “We had almost 200 yards rushing against a defense that’s giving up about (118) yards on the ground, so I thought we had a good game plan in terms of that.”
Linebackers Anthony Leonard and Najee Goode both had clear paths to the end zone on interceptions only to get tripped inside the Cardinal 10. Leonard was the recipient of a tipped pass by Sidney Glover and the former high school fullback rumbled down to the Louisville seven where he was tackled by Doug Beaumont.
Goode, a former high school quarterback, also pulled down a tipped pass at the Louisville 34 and ran 28 yards to the Louisville six where Hunter Cantwell finally pulled him down.
“To their credit they made some plays and we knew they were going to do that,” Cantwell said.
Noel Devine’s 79-yard run in the second quarter was the longest non-touchdown run in school history. Devine shared the previous record of 76 yards with the late Jim Moss.
White and Devine have both rushed for more than 100 yards in the same game four times for their career. The other three times came against Connecticut and Oklahoma in 2007, and against Connecticut earlier this year. It is the 46th time two runners have gained more than 100 yards at the same time in school history.
West Virginia came into today’s game leading the Big East in turnover margin at plus-5. That figure now moves to plus-9 after the defense forced five Louisville turnovers.
Saturday’s win assures West Virginia of its seventh consecutive winning campaign in Big East play dating back to the 2001 season. The Mountaineers are 37-9 in league action during that span of time.
There is no disguising the fact that the Gator Bowl has been coveting Notre Dame for one of its two bowl spots. The Gator has never taken a seven-win team in its history. Now the question becomes can the Gator Bowl take a six-win Notre Dame team if it loses next weekend to heavily favored USC as expected? The Irish were upset at home by Syracuse 24-23 earlier today.
On the flip side, the Gator is guaranteed to have a four-loss team from the ACC regardless of what happens the rest of the season.
The Gator may now turn its full attention to the Big 12 with the Sun Bowl coveting the probable six-win Irish.
Notre Dame hasn't exactly lit it up on the football field against its provisional Big East brethen, going 2-3 under Weis versus Big East teams since 2005. Notre Dame is 0-2 against the Big East this year.
With Syracuse’s win today the Big East finishes the regular season 9-7 against non-conference BCS foes.
Someone mentioned this to me in an email: Instead of rooting for Pitt, simply root against Cincinnati tonight. That’s sounds like a plan to me.