Need for Speed

To play with the big dogs, you first have to run with them. West Virginia's Steve Slaton knows that, and also knows that speed will play a big factor in WVU's matchup with Georgia in the Nokia Sugar Bowl.

"Georgia will be one of the fastest teams we have played," Slaton said as he eyed WVU's final opponent. But Virginia Tech was fast, too. "Speed can affect the running game, but we can be up to the challenge."

Comparing the speed of Tech and Georgia is a bit like comparing Jennifer Anniston and Angelina Jolie – no matter which one you select; you've made a good choice. The Bulldog defense was fast enough to run with LSU's sleek offense and shut it down in the SEC championship game rout. Other than Auburn, the Dawgs have yet to yield more than two touchdowns to any 2005 opponent.

WVU, therefore, isn't going to run around Georgia as it did against Pitt, where the Panther defenders appeared frozen to the turf. South Florida did a good job of bottling up Slaton, using multiple linebackers to key on the freshman star and preventing him from getting much running room. Slaton also believes that he might have relied too much on his primary weapon in that contest.

"My speed is my game," the eastern Pennsylvania native said. "I got too much in a hurry. I needed to calm down and make my reads. I think they had as much speed as anyone else. I was frustrated, but a lot of that goes away after you get the win."

Slaton is also eyeing a 1000-yard season, but needs a big game (XXX yards) against the Bulldogs to make it happen.

"That would be a big accomplishment for me to get that and not play in all the games we had," said Slaton, who was on the field for a single play against Syracuse and Maryland, and just 13 against Wofford.

That individual goal is nothing, however, compared to the dream of winning a BCS bowl game.

"This is one of the biggest games of my life, with everyone coming to watch it and everything," Slaton admitted. "This is going to be a big test for us. Getting to the bowl game is a big thing, but losing is bigger. You want to go to the bowl and not have any disappointments."

RIFLE REPORTS A win in the Sugar would be all the sweeter for Slaton, as his birthday is Jan. 4.

"That would be a great way to end up the year," he said.

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Slaton acknowledges that quarterback Pat White shares his use of speed in the running game, but won't say which has the edge.

"Pat is just a speed demon. He finds a crack, and he's a smart QB. He's fast and strong, and he knows what he needs to do. As to who's faster – we don't go there," he concluded with a laugh.

* * *

The comeback against Louisville proved the validity of West Virginia's approach to games.

"We had a lot of heart, and just didn't want to lose," Slaton said of the rally. "After that, it showed that anything is possible. It was a team effort this year. We followed our coaches, and just made fewer mistakes."


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