The Untouchables...

Defensive lines often aren't even getting close to West Virginia's backfield players. No defense even touched Patrick White or Steve Slaton on three of their last five scoring runs. And, though the duo has the gift of giddy up, credit is due the big uglies, whose play has been anything but.

The offensive line has been so solid for the No. 5 Mountaineers (6-0, 1-0 Big East) that White already broke his Big East and career single game rushing mark of 220 yards, set last year against Pitt, dashing for 247 and four scores on just 15 carries last week in the 41-17 victory over Syracuse. The four scores tie the league record for quarterbacks, and, seemingly, secured White as the most effective rushing threat in the Big East – aside from his own teammate, who ranks third in the nation in rushing with 155.2 yards per game and is just 69 from 1,000 with game seven upcoming.

Slaton has also scored eight times, and had at least one touchdown in the last 14 games. The Mountaineers actually tallied a season-high 457 against the Orange, White and Slaton combining for 410 of those. White also threw for 99, which is actually just 38 off the season average.

"It says we are a run first team, and that we are going to try to run the ball," said center Dan Mozes, a Remington candidate as the nation's best at the position. "It's not that they are not a good run-stopping team or rush defense, it's just that we are pretty good fundamentally on the line. We are not the biggest, either there or at quarterback or running back. But we have three great runners with Owen (Schmitt) and we can get things done."

Understatement. West Virginia leads the nation in rushing with 328.33 yards per game and is in the top five in total offense at 446 yards per outing. It leads the Big East and is third nationally in scoring offense with 41.5 points per game, one more than upcoming foe Louisville, considered the finest offensive threat in the league. Ball security has also helped, as the Mountaineers are seventh in the nation in fumbles lost and eighth in fewest overall turnovers, both of which lead the Big East. The passing numbers aren't even close – and for good reason.

"We are a run-first team and when the run game is working there is no reason to pass," Mozes said. "You control the clock and the game."

And when WVU does pass, a whopping 101 times this season, exactly half as many as opponents, it has been sacked just five times. That's less than one per game. The main event on a prize fighting card often has that many.

"Well, we don't do a lot of drop back passes," Mozes said. "We do a lot of slide protections where you just protect your gap. You should never get a sack on that. The key is being able to sit there and thrive, get through it when the game is close, and know that we can score."

The other side of the ball believes so, defensive tackle Keilein Dykes noting he isn't sure any team can slow West Virginia: "Our offense, I know they are going to score at will. They have not been stopped yet."

The reason, besides speed and the downfield blocking of receivers, is assistant head coach and offensive line guru Rick Trickett, who has molded the line with a blend of his Marine Corps background and toughness, mentally and physically, and his knowledge of zone blocking and technique, which is second to none. That shows in the stats, where three Mountaineers rank in the NCAA top 25 in scoring. Place kicker Pat McAfee is 18th with 8.5 points per game. White and Slaton are tied at 23rd with eight points per game.

"He is definitely one of the toughest guys I have ever met, not even pound for pound," Stanchek said of Trickett. "He prepares us really well. We had a great week of practice and we took our right steps against Syracuse. We had a good scheme, as we always do. But playing here, you have to have toughness, even above physical ability. We have him and Dan, who makes the right calls and puts us on the right guys. When we are on that, we can give Pat the time he needs to throw the ball or Steve the holes he needs to run."

The effectiveness – even more shocking considering there are essentially two new starters in left guard Greg Isdaner and right tackle Jake Figner – was apparent even in the first game, when left tackle Damien Crissey was injured on the first series against Marshall and the line reshuffled to its current state, with Mozes at center, Jeremy Sheffey at right guard and Stanchek at left tackle. The moves come on the heels of last season, when the demotion of center Jeremy Hines to second team led to his quitting and the move of Mozes to center. It seems all Trickett's shuffling rewards WVU this time of year, when players can man multiple slots and seem to jell incredibly well.

"I think Rick Trickett is the best in the business at this," WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "He knows exactly what he is doing, and has proven that. I just let him do his thing. He gets them going."


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