Freshman quarterbacks aren't supposed to pick apart nationally ranked defenses – especially in the glaringly efficient style of Pat White.

In his first career start, White completed seven of 16 passes for 106 yards as No. 16 West Virginia beat Connecticut 45-13 Wednesday to move within three games of its first-ever BCS berth. But it wasn't White's howitzer-like left arm that collared the once-fearsome Huskies' defense.

It was his Fred Astairesque feet that, combined with rookie Steve Slaton's gritty 71 yards, danced through Connecticut's sixth-ranked defense for 63 yards and two touchdowns and exposed it as overrated and underworked.

"He is really elusive," WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "On one touchdown a double screen was called and both were covered. That's usually a dead play. But Pat turns it into a touchdown only on athletic ability."

Indeed, even before West Virginia (7-1, 4-0 Big East) could set off its halftime pyrotechnics, White had created fireworks of his own with a pair of 14-yard touchdown runs on bootlegs and a crushing block that sprung fellow rookie Steve Slaton.

The latter run, a zigzagging affair off the left side where White read the zone coverage before exploding through it, put West Virginia ahead 35-3 and the Huskies in an end-game mindset. UConn (4-4, 1-3) never again threatened and seemed content to merely run out the clock.

By then White had thrown for one touchdown and ripped off the two scoring runs as well as seven others for 39 yards – the same total he passed for in the first half. Of the runs, which sealed the game and gave West Virginia a mental edge and its largest lead of the season, White only said: "I enjoyed that. It was fun."

That's it. There are no quotable quotes, no Marcus Vick-like antics from the player teammates know as their most quiet – until he steps on the field.

"Pat's a great leader in the huddle," all-Big East center Dan Mozes said. "He is actually louder than (co-starting quarterback) Adam Bednarik. Sometimes he is even vocal to the other team. That gives you good inspiration as an offensive line when you have your quarterback talking trash to the other team. He can take control."

The fire that burns inside this Fire Chief's son isn't showcased until the pads, and in this evening kickoff's case lights, go on.

It was White and Slaton that combined to bring nearly-dead West Virginia back to life versus then-No. 19 Louisville. Down 24-7 with BCS hopes dimming under the full moon, White entered and engineered six consecutive scoring drives – three in overtime – and threw a two-point conversion that proved the difference in WVU's 46-44 win. Slaton scored all three overtime touchdowns.

This time White's effectual running and workmanlike passing won't be remembered as much as his shockingly super block. He leveled two UConn defenders when Slaton reversed field on a shotgun handoff, creating a hole where there wasn't and sending his backfield mate into the secondary again.

"I saw Stevie coming back and I was hoping I could catch one not looking," White said. "I just laid into him. I used to specialize in that. As a kid I loved doing that."

Two plays later White again sliced through the nation's sixth-ranked rush defense for a touchdown, letting a national television audience know that this post-Halloween affair would again showcase a scary-solid rushing attack spearheaded by two freshmen.

"I told him at the hotel before the game not to be afraid to run it," Rodriguez said. "He can get to a spot faster, sometimes, than his passes can. He just has that extra speed."

West Virginia, too, found that missing gear that allows it to run away from lesser foes.

The Mountaineers' second possession featured Slaton running three times for 33 yards, the last a gutty three-foot plunge to put WVU ahead 7-0. The Mountaineers added another score before the first quarter ended, then scored three touchdowns in as many second-quarter minutes.

White hit fullback Owen Schmitt with an 11-yard completion, then found Brandon Myles for a 20-yard catch-and-run on a touchdown-scoring wideout screen that made the score 21-3 with 12:07 remaining in the first half.

Connecticut fumbled on its ensuing snap and the rout began via White's block and his scamper. He mirrored that effort on the next drive after Anthony Mims intercepted Connecticut freshman quarterback Dennis Brown, making his first career road start.

White used his scrambling skills again, darting through Connecticut's right side for an insurmountable 35-3 halftime lead.

"You score quickly when you have explosive players," Rodriguez said. "You look at USC, teams like that, they have speed. We have fast players in some areas."

It wasn't unlike proverbially shooting fish in a barrel, though nobody's comparing West Virginia to USC. It should be noted that four of the Huskies' opponents have a combined record of 3-29, and that its top 10 place in every major defensive category was built on beating Buffalo and Army.

UConn was also missing eight players that see significant time and started a frosh signal caller in a rough environment, where he finished 10 of 19 for 97 yards and one interception.

Yet anytime a team holds foes to 12 yards on 38 rushes – and to minus-12 yards in the first half – and gains 372 yards with 18 and 19 year-olds in half the key slots on offense, flags should arise nationally.

With White at the controls, one assumes that it should happen sooner rather than later. He is the run-pass option spread offense guru Rodriguez has yearned for.

This is, after all, an LSU recruit who spurned the Tigers and baseball's Los Angles Angels for West Virginia's hills. If White was working this magic in the Bayou, he might be getting more attention. No matter.

This West Virginia team plays like one and shows none of the arrogance and hand-it-to-me selfishness of last season's Big East favorites that fell flat in losing three of its final four games. Rodriguez is handling his youngsters accordingly, utilizing a build-up style, instead of breaking them down. And it's paying dividends quickly as the Mountaineers prep themselves for a late-season run at national attention as the Big East face-saver.

Things are finally a rollin' right for often short-sticked West Virginia, which has a chance to break into the BCS top 10 and keep the Series' "Big East rule" in check. The schedule just graced a beat-up team with the longest in-season layoff (18 days) since the school kept track of game dates in the 1920s.

It also provides WVU with national exposure in its next two games – another Wednesday night made-for-TV match-up with Cincinnati and the Thanksgiving Backyard Brawl rivalry versus Pitt.

That's meaningful for a program perpetually in big games that is the winningest Division I-A program never to claim a national championship. There have seemingly been as many peaks and valleys in WVU's history as there are in the state itself – leaning locals to fret that their beloved Mountaineers are little more than college football's version of the Red Sox.

They were achingly close with Major Harris in 1988. They were perched at the edge against Florida in 1993. In '96, a Black Saturday blocked punt ruined another run at the perfect gift. In 2003, a miracle fourth down grab by Kellen Winslow turned a huge win into an unsettling loss. And, despite having tied for the Big East title the past two years, WVU has yet to make a BCS bowl.

But if one Ruthian-like curse can be stopped, so too can West Virginia's streak of major bowl losses. WVU's youth, led by White, is serving the rest of the Big East, and it's locked into a major bowl if it wins out.

No national negativity can stop it. The only thing standing between West Virginia and a man-to-man match-up for respect is itself. And in a land where dogged determination and self-reliance are staples, well, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Rodriguez's charges again playing for state pride, or for White to lead his newfound home-state team into a game against that other team that recruited him.

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