By Christopher Marshall for MSNsportsNET.com
October 14, 2006
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Quarterback Patrick White ran for 247 yards and four touchdowns and running back Steve Slaton added 163 yards and another score to lead No. 4 West Virginia to a 41-17 victory over the Syracuse Orange Saturday afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown. The 247-yard effort by White is the fourth-best rushing total in Mountaineer history and a Big East record for quarterbacks.
The game began with a fright for the Mountaineer faithful and ended in another routine West Virginia victory. The homecoming crowd of 60,051 was stunned in the first quarter when the Syracuse offense took the opening drive and moved efficiently down the field, covering 80 yards on 11 plays. The drive culminated with a Perry Patterson scrambling pass to a wide open Mike Williams running free behind the coverage to give the Orange an early 7-0 lead at the 8:36 mark of the first quarter. The Syracuse advantage marked the first time the Mountaineers have trailed in a game since Louisville last season.
However, the Mountaineers wasted no time responding. On the WVU’s fourth offensive play of the game White raced 69 yards, cutting back against the defense on a quarterback counter to even the score at 7-7 with 6:49 left in the first quarter. That White run was a sign of things to come for the Syracuse defense.
After the game Coach Rich Rodriguez described what made White so effective.
“We did a couple of new things offensively, particularly a couple quarterback runs. We had a quarterback counter we ran and Pat scored on that same play three times,” Rodriguez said.
After a Pat McAfee field goal made the score 10-7, Slaton got in on the act racing 52 yards down the right sideline to give the Mountaineers a 17-7 advantage with 7:29 left in the first half. It was the fourth 52-yard TD run of his career.
Despite being in a hole, Syracuse (3-4) proved resilient. A long pass from Patterson to Williams for 30 yards on another blown coverage gave Syracuse another opportunity in WVU territory. Patterson finished the 60-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run on a bootleg play to trim the deficit to 17-14 at halftime.
Rodriguez once again mentioned his team’s third down defense as an area of concern.
“We just made a few adjustments at halftime,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t really talk to the defense at all. I just mentioned that we gave up a couple big plays. We had them right where we wanted them on third down. We have just been unable to finish the drive off. I thought we did a better job of that in the second half.”
West Virginia (6-0) took the ball to start the second half and in no time White was at it again, beating the Orange with his feet. After moving the ball 43 yards on the first four plays of the drive, White raced 40 yards for a touchdown on another quarterback counter to give the Mountaineers a 24-14 lead.
“Pat White ran very well for us all day today. When you run your quarterback you always hold your breath, but Pat is so fast if you can get him passed the safeties it just might work,” Rodriguez said.
After holding the Orange on their next possession the Mountaineers took the ball at their own 20 and again began picking up yardage in large chunks.
In covering 80 yards on just seven plays, White had runs of 22 and 32 yard -- the latter resulting in his third touchdown of the game to give the Mountaineers a comfortable 31-14 lead with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
Syracuse coach Greg Robinson was impressed with the Mountaineers’ offensive cohesiveness.
“This thing all works together. They have an explosive offense and an extremely good tailback. I was very impressed with White. He is a fine athlete and a good leader,” Robinson said.
And White wasn’t done. After the Mountaineer defense held Syracuse three and out on their next possession, the sophomore was back in the saddle when the Mountaineers took over at the Syracuse 35 yard line.
This time the Mountaineers needed only three plays to reach the end zone. Slaton carried for eight yards to the 27 followed by a White strike for 15 yards to Brandon Myles that set up a first down at the Syracuse 12. Out of the shotgun, White took a high snap, controlled it with one hand and weaved in between tacklers, running over Syracuse defenders inside the five yard line and diving across the goal line for his fourth and final score of the game.
“The counter play worked really well,” he said. “The hole was there and I was hitting it. They were keying on Steve and we have not run that play much so it was something new for them and it worked.”
West Virginia had a season-high 457 yards rushing and 562 yards of offense.
Syracuse finished with 227 yards. Patterson completed 9 of 21 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown, while Williams caught three passes for 99 yards.
The victory marks the first time in school history the Mountaineers have defeated the Orange five straight times.
The Mountaineers return to action on Friday night when they travel to Hartford, Conn., to take on the Uconn Huskies.
SYR – Williams 47 pass from Patterson (Shadle kick)
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