A conference record-setting performance on offense and a big play showing on defense made our picks for players of the game against Pitt easy ones.
Quarterback Pat White lead WVU's thrashing of Pitt in the Backyard Brawl with 220 rushing yards -- a Big East record for a quarterback and the third highest such total for a QB in the nation this year. White averaged a ridiculous 9.6 yards per carry, recorded two touchdowns and continually left the befuddled Panther defense grasping for a handhold as he zoomed around the field.
White's ability to run WVU's read option plays, where the quarterback has to decide whether to give the ball to the running back or keep it for himself, was one of the main reasons for WVU's monster total of 451 yards on the ground. The redshirt freshman continually made the right choices, and also improvised when plays broke down, to pile up the impressive figure.
White was just 4-10 passing for 41 yards on the frigid night, but did complete a nice crossing pattern to Darius Reynaud on a third down and 17 situation to pick up a first down, and also found Steve Slaton for a 16-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.
Defensively, WVU gave up some yardage, but spur Eric Wicks, playing with a vengeance against the team that didn't offer him a scholarship even though he is right in its back yard, made a number of big plays in the win.
Wicks blew in on a blitz in the fourth quarter to force an incomplete Tyler Palko pass that could have gotten the Panthers back into the game, and he also forced a fumble with a beautifully timed airborne strip of LaRod Stephens-Howling that the Mountaineers recovered.
Wicks finished with seven tackles (five solo) and had a tackle for a loss of two yards and a pass breakup as he gained bragging rights for the next 364 days in his hometown.
It's not many times that a player gains 179 yards and doesn't get player of the game honors, but that happened to Steve Slaton, due to White's excellent performance. Still, Slaton's running did as much as White's in laying a beatdown on the Pitt defense, and his two touchdowns give him 13 on the season.
Teams don't rush for 451 yards without a little bit of blocking, so it's time to recognize Garin Justice, Travis Garrett, Jeremy Sheffey, Ryan Stanchek and Dan Mozes. This group did a great job in blowing holes in the Pitt defensive front, and despite a few self-admitted mistakes had to be doing a lot right.
Finally, kudos to the 52,997 fans who braved the bitter cold to cheer their team on. I have to admit I thought that 40,000 would be a reasonable goal, so it was great to see the stadium fill up as the game approached. If you weren't there, you can't appreciate how cold it was, so if you know someone that did go, tell them, 'nice job'.