By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
November 24, 2005
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Pat White rushed for 220 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns and Steve Slaton added 179 yards and three scores to lead No. 12-ranked West Virginia to a 45-13 victory over Pitt Thursday night at Milan Puskar Stadium.
White’s 220 yards were a Big East record for quarterbacks, topping Michael Vick’s previous conference best of 210 yards posted against Boston College in 2000. White, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in back to back games and three times this year, set a rushing record for WVU quarterbacks besting the previous mark of 206 set by Ted Anderson against VMI in 1953.
West Virginia’s victory assures the Mountaineers of at least a tie for the Big East title and they can win it outright with a victory next Saturday night at South Florida. WVU (9-1, 6-0) has won a share of the last three conference titles.
“We’re obviously pleased,” said West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez. “It was a hard-fought game. We made some uncharacteristic mistakes early with some penalties, but if you rush for 451 yards you’re probably going to win the game.”
Thursday night in 7-degree wind-chill conditions, there was no great deception on West Virginia’s part against the Panthers: the Mountaineers ran the ball 62 times and attempted just 10 passes. But Pitt had no answer for White, Slaton and fullback Owen Schmitt, giving up a staggering average of 7.3 yards per carry.
You knew things were probably going to go West Virginia’s way on its second possession of the game when White turned a blown-up screen play into a 47-yard run to the Pitt one. Eventually White got the Mountaineers into the end zone when he scrambled away from pressure and hit a wide-open Slaton for a 16-yard touchdown.
“(Pat) is a guy who makes a lot of plays,” said Rodriguez. “When a guy is making the right decision with the ability to run he’s going to be effective. It helps when the quarterback can run, especially when he can run on the perimeter with option plays.”
“My hat’s off to that kid,” said Wannstedt. “He did a great job today of making things happen. We couldn’t get off our blocks quick enough to get him to the ground.”
A pair of Tyler Palko touchdown passes to Greg Lee kept the Panthers in the game. His first scoring strike came on a 63-yard pass when Lee got behind West Virginia cornerback Dee McCann, and his second TD hook up was a pretty fingertip catch by Lee in the back of the end zone to answer a White four-yard TD run for West Virginia. A bobbled snap by Panther holder Adam Graessle led to a botched PAT try for Pitt.
White’s second TD run of the game came with 1:43 left in the second quarter when he went around left end, followed a crushing block by Schmitt, and walked into the end zone to give the Mountaineers an eight-point, 21-13 advantage.
WVU was the beneficiary of two Pitt fumbles in the third quarter – one by tight end Steve Buches and another by Larod Stephens-Howling, but the Mountaineers were only able to get three points out of it on a Pat McAfee 29-yard field goal to make it 24-13.
A key point in the game came with 46 seconds left in the third quarter with Pitt looking to put some points on the board. Trailing by just 11, the Panthers got to the WVU 24 before running back Rashad Jennings was thrown for a three-yard loss. A couple of incomplete Palko passes forced Pitt to try a difficult 44-yard field goal attempt into a stiff win. It appeared as if Pitt could have run out the clock and tried a much easier kick at the other end of the field with the wind. But Pitt tried it against the wind and Panther kicker Josh Cummings slipped trying to get it through the wind and the ball sailed harmlessly into the end zone.
Wannstedt made two other curious decisions in the first half, declining a pentalty on third down that would have given Pitt another shot at making a first down and unsuccessfully making a fourth-down conversion at midfield with 30 seconds left and West Virginia possessing all its timeouts.
Neither decision wound up hurting Pitt but they could have.
After the Cummings missed field goal, West Virginia took over at its own 30 and two plays later on third and two at the 35, Rodriguez crossed Pitt up with a handoff to Schmitt, who broke free of the Pitt defense and raced 44 yards to the Panther 21 before Darrelle Revis was able to ride him down. Slaton eventually finished the drive with a three-yard TD run.
Slaton’s second touchdown run and his third TD of the game came with 5:52 left in the fourth quarter when he walked in untouched from the six. It was Slaton’s 14th touchdown in his last four games.
Jahmile Addae iced the game by picking off a Palko pass and racing 40 yards for a touchdown. It was one of five Panther turnovers collected by West Virginia’s defense.
“This was a great way for our seniors to end their home careers,” said Rodriguez. “That was a point of emphasis this week.”
Palko finished the game completing 24 of 43 passes for 308 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Lee had 100 receiving yards by halftime and finished the game catching six passes for 142 yards.
“We gave up some big plays which surprised us but our guys didn’t panic,” Rodriguez said. “We got a couple of turnovers; that was the biggest key in the second half.”
Jennings was Pitt’s top rusher gaining 69 yards on 13 tries. Pitt (5-6) finished the game rushing for 122 yards on 31 carries. The loss snaps a streak of five straight bowl games for Pitt.
Pitt played most of the game without starting inside linebacker H.B. Blades, who left the field early in the first quarter with a sprained left ankle. Blades came into the game as Pitt’s leading tackler with 120 stops.
“Sure he’s one of our leaders and all that, but not having him out there does not equal 400 yards rushing,” said Wannstedt.
WV – Slaton 16 pass from White (McAfee kick)
Rushing: UP – Jennings 13-69, Stephens 10-45, Palko 6-8, Murphy 1-1, Team 1-minus 1, Total 31-122; WV – White 23-220, Slaton 34-179, Schmitt 4-54, Team 1-minus 2, Total 62-451.
Passing: UP – Palko 34-43-2-308-2; WV – White 4-10-1-41-1.
Receiving: UP – Lee 6-142, Kinder 5-44, Gill 4-58, Murphy 3-17, Jennings 2-18, Stephens 2-16, Buches 1-7, Delsardo 1-6, Total 24-308; WV – Reynaud 2-26, Slaton 1-16, Myles 1-minus 1, 4-41.
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