White, West Virginia Again Demolish Pitt

PITTSBURGH – West Virginia's BCS hopes are still alive. Pitt's season is on the brink of collapse.

Patrick White threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns as part of a career-high 424 yards of total offense to lead No. 8 West Virginia past rival Pitt 45-27 here Thursday. The sophomore beat the Panthers last year with his feet, ripping UP for the exactly the same total as his 220 yards this year – two short of a career high. He used all his weapons this time, tossing touchdown passes of 11 and 67 yards – the latter a season-long completion – and running for scores of 64 and 19 yards – the former of which gave the Mountaineers the lead for good at 31-27 after a wild first half that saw the schools combine for 51 points.

White, with 837 rushing yards entering, went over 1,000 for the season. Tailback Steve Slaton, now at 1,578 after gaining a career-high 215 yards on 23 carries, gives WVU the school's first quarterback-running back duo to each have more than 1,000 yards in the same season. Slaton scored four times, two each via the run and pass. His combined 345 yards receiving and running make him the first Mountaineer in school history to gain more than 100 yards rushing and receiving in the same game.

"Pat White put on a performance today," WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "I have been coaching a long time, and that is as good of a performance as I have seen from a quarterback. It's hard to imagine a quarterback playing any better than he did today."

Pitt, led by quarterback Tyler Palko's 341 yards passing on 28 of 37 completions and two scores, has now lost four consecutive games. At 6-5 and 2-4 in the Big East with No. 10 Louisville coming into Heinz Field on Nov. 25, the Panthers likely need a win just to be invited to a bowl. It could lose five consecutive games to end a season for the first time in school history.

West Virginia (9-1, 4-1) doesn't care. In fact, the Mountaineers are relishing in the pummeling of its most-hated foe. After WVU went ahead 45-27 on Slaton's last scoring run, White, shown on the ESPN cameras, gave a soft "Meow" in a mockery of the Panthers' defense, which allowed 14 points in the last 11 minutes of regulation in the 46-45 double overtime loss to Connecticut last week after the offense built a 31-17 lead. It had a similar collapse, engineered by White and Slaton, after leading 27-24 at the break.

White scored twice in the third quarter, and Slaton added a 55-yard run to end the scoring. West Virginia moved the ball down the field on its final drive, then chose to kneel inside the five to end the game. That won't relieve the suffering for Pitt, which allowed its seniors to go out with three losses in four years to WVU.

"My heart is torn for the seniors," Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Tyler Palko, H.B. Blades and the guys are doing everything they can to win. I just wish we were a better team."

Wish in one hand, Pitt in the other. WVU's offensive onslaught came one year after it racked up 451 yards rushing and another 45 points. The Mountaineers, 4-3 in the last seven games against UP, have won the games by an average of 19.5 points. The 641 yards in this win were the most ever in the series, the previous high being 624 in a 63-48 win in Morgantown in 1965.

The Mountaineer defense, shredded for 27 points and 265 yards in the first half, adjusted at the break. It shutout Pitt in the final 30 minutes by bringing additional pressure on Palko and covering more effectively downfield. WVU finished with eight sacks for totaling losses of 45 yards and six more hits on Palko. Pitt tallied 75 yards in the second half and was held to minus-one net yards rushing.

"I thought our defense played outstanding in the second half," Rodriguez said. "We played West Virginia football in the second half. We ran the ball and the defense got stops. We just got home on our blitzes. We were getting pressure in the first half, but we were not getting there. It's a nice win."

White's performance is even more impressive considering the quarterback suffered turf toe in the first half. The potentially-nagging injury did not seem to hinder any second half efforts, when WVU showcased itself to a national audience with a fourth drubbing of its rival in seven years.

"We had some great coaching," said Slaton, who had his sixth consecutive 100-plus yard game. "There was a lot of stake tonight. We are just clicking right now. It was more of a pride thing."

Then consider West Virginia the alpha male. After the teams went back and forth, trading touchdowns on the first two possession and two more on the next series', West Virginia took a 17-14 lead with 7:29 left before the half on place kicker Pat McAfee's career-long 51-yard field goal. It was also the longest kick, collegiate or professional, at Heinz Field. White completed two of three passes on the drive, and, with half the second quarter still left, had hit six of nine throws overall for 130 yards and one touchdown. He had also run for 45 yards on eight carries, an average of 5.6 yards per play. His total offensive numbers showed 175 yards on 17 touches, an average of 10.3 yards per handle.

Pitt answered with a field goal, then secured a halftime lead on corner Derrelle Revis' 73-yard punt return for a 24-17 lead. White then found Slaton on another wheel route, this time for a team season-long 67 yards and another score to tie the game at 24-24. The back beat linebacker Tommie Campbell – the WPIAL 100 meter champion and a converted defensive back whose job it was to shadow Slaton – down the sideline and caught White's second fantastic throw. The first went to Slaton on another wheel route for the initial WVU score.

"When you see a linebacker on Steve Slaton, you pretty much know he is open," WVU co-leading tackler Reed Williams said. "If I saw him coming, I'd just try to drag him down, keep him from going by me."

It was Slaton's sixth reception for 130 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for one score before the half. West Virginia's previous longest pass was White to Darius Reynaud against East Carolina, which was a 60-yard wideout screen.

"The line did a good job of blocking and we took it right at them," White said. "This may be my first time. I probably was nowhere close before now. I am just trying to put more points on the board."

Lee added another field goal, this time of 39 yards, for the 27-24 lead at the break. Pitt's 27 halftime points were the most scored on West Virginia this season, but it never scored again. Louisville managed 16 points and Syracuse scored 14. The teams combined for 533 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes, WVU having 268 to Pitt's 265. WVU relied upon the pass more than in any other game, tallying 201 yards to Pitt's 232 by the half. The teams converted 11 of 15 third downs.

White went 20 of 13 for 201 yards with a long of 67. Palko hit 16 of 19 passes for the 232 and two scores. Slaton was bottled for just seven yards on six carries.

Notes: *WVU will likely remain first nationally in rushing yards per game with its 437 against Pitt. It will also extend its school-record 13 consecutive weeks in the top 10.

*The Mountaineers have 64 rushing touchdowns in its last 16 games. Slaton has 31 rushing TDs in his last 17 games. He ranks second nationally in rushing at more than 150 yards per game.

*West Virginia won its 20th road game since 2002 and advanced to 19-5 in night games under Rodriguez and won its 10th night road game under sixth-year coach. WVU is 21-19-1 in Thursday games all-time. It was the Mountaineers' 49th win in Pennsylvania all-time, the most of any state other than West Virginia.

*In the last five games versus Pitt, WVU has rushed for 1,639 yards while holding UP to 469.

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