"I never dreamed that I'd see something like this," said the veteran coach and New Martinsville, W.Va. native. "I've been very blessed. I saw some great backs at other places. We had great backs at Arizona State, and at the Air Force Academy. Never have I seen two in the same backfield, and I don't know that we'll ever see it again. It's something that we need to stop, enjoy, and smell the roses, and enjoy the sunshine. They're two nice young fellas, and there's not an ounce of arrogance in either one of them because they've been raised by great families. What I need to do is come here during the offseason and watch some game film of those guys, or watch a TV game of those two because I never get to enjoy a game until I'm off the field."
Coach Stewart was certainly not the first to share this view. BlueGoldNews.com publisher Kevin Kinder shared a similar sentiment in his Sites and Sights column printed in this week's issue of the Blue and Gold News. Heck, I stayed up for two hours the other night with my roommate, MSNSportsNet.com's Chris Marshall, as we talked about the greatness of these two athletes.
Coming into the 2006 season, we knew these guys were both very, very good football players. What we've learned over the past few months is that they may be the best duo to ever line up in the same backfield, not just at WVU but in all of college football. In just 16 starts, Slaton has moved into third place all-time at WVU in rushing yards. By the same token, White is poised to break Rasheed Marshall's Big East record for rushing yards by a quarterback. He needs just 32 yards against USF on Saturday to do so.
The current single-season record for rushing yards by a Mountaineer is 1,710 set by Avon Coubourne in 2002. Entering Saturday's game against the Bulls, Slaton is sitting at 1,578. That's a mere 132 yards. He also has an outstanding chance at getting 2,000 yards rushing on the season. Over the final three games, Steve would have to average about 141 yards per contest to reach that magical plateau. Keep in mind he's currently averaging over 150 a game. So, basically, if Slaton comes out and has three sub-par games by his standards, he'll break the 2,000 yard barrier.
As a kid, I worshipped Major Harris. He was a God-like figure to me, and for my entire life he has been the gold standard to which other players are compared. I remember thinking how good Amos Zereoue was, but at the same time I told myself that he'd always be second to the Maj.
After this season, though, there's no doubt in my mind that Pat White is the most electrifying quarterback to ever wear a West Virginia uniform. It's downright scary to think just how good he can be with two more years to grow.
And Slaton? He's run past Famous Amos in just a year and a half. Don't feel bad, Amos, as you're certainly not the first or last person that Slaton's left in the dust. Just ask Georgia...or Marshall...or Maryland...or Pitt...(you get the point.)
As I told someone last week, these two guys have made my job much harder than it should be. A big part of being a writer is describing, but some of the plays that Pat and Steve make are simply indescribable. I've run out of adjectives to use when describing their exploits on the football field.
It's gotten to the point that, while watching the Mountaineer offense, Marshall and I will set a friendly over/under on the number of plays it takes West Virginia to score a touchdown. The highest number we've ever set is seven plays, which was obliterated by about three plays. On every play, White and Slaton have the ability to score from anywhere on the field. It's this fact that keeps opposing defensive coordinators from getting a good night's sleep, and keeps Mountaineer fans on the edge of their seats.
The scary part about all of this is that these two will be around for at least one more year. How much better will they be with another season of film to watch, another spring practice under their belts, and another fall camp to get better? As sophomores, they're being mentioned as candidates for the Heisman Trophy. What will happen when they're juniors, or even seniors?
Amongst all of this hype and rhetoric, it's easy to lose proper perspective. What we need to realize is that there will never be another Pat White, and there will never be another Steve Slaton. What we're watching right now are two once-in-a-lifetime players...in the same backfield! At the same time!
Obviously, they aren't doing all the work by themselves. Fullback Owen Schmitt is a pretty nasty runner in his own right, and is a very underrated lead blocker. The big play ability of Brandon Myles and Darius Reynaud keeps defensive secondaries honest in the passing game. Up front, the Mountaineers have the best center in the country in Dan Mozes, who leads a very talented offensive line. On the perimeter, West Virginia has very good downfield blockers at receiver. And, I'd be a fool to not recognize that Rich Rodriguez and the Mountaineer coaching staff have done an outstanding job of putting the super sophomores in a position to make plays.
White and Slaton, though, are what makes the offense so explosive. Their vision, speed, and ability to leave would-be tacklers grasping nothing but air are all things that cannot be taught, or that even the best blocking scheme can account for.
"You can make a, not a half-hearted block, but not have your best block and the next thing you know he's springing by you for a touchdown," admitted Mozes, the Outland Trophy finalist.
So, Mountaineer fans, I urge you to heed Coach Stewart's advice. Enjoy the ride while it lasts, because this is a very unique and special time to be a Mountaineer fan. Special things are happening in the West Virginia backfield, things that we may never see again. Luckily, we all have a front row seat for history.