The BlueGoldNews.com staff picks the players of the game and outstanding performances in West Virginia's 38-35 win over Georgia Tech.
Offensively, usual player of the game candidate Steve Slaton was severely limited with a deep thigh bruise, and finished with 11 yards on three carries. In his absence, fullback Owen Schmitt earned the honors, totaling a career-high 109 yards on 13 carries. The transfer from Division III Wisconsin-River Falls scored a pair of touchdowns, and provided a much needed lift after the injury forced Slaton out of action.
Without Schmitt, the Mountaineers would not have won this game. Pat White's stellar play was magnificent as usual, but Schmitt's productivity was the difference in West Virginia being in the game, let alone winning it. The fullback fought through his own injuries to his ankle, knee, and back to carry the load for West Virginia.
"I tried my best. I think I slacked in some parts. I need to suck it up," said WVU's strongman in a most self-deprecating manner. Fortunately for the Mountaineers, his play on the field was much better than what he thought.
On defense, sophomore Charles Pugh played what was easily the best game of his career. The Orlando native saved his scintillating performance for his home-state crowd, and was a big part of the Mountaineer defense's dominance second half. Pugh, a graduate of Edgewater High in the city that Mickey built, totaled 3.5 tackles on the day, and was all over the field blowing up Yellow Jacket plays for the entire second half. Pugh had a big sack sack on third down to force a Georgia Tech punt, and also made a big stop on a Yellow Jacket screen pass to put the ACC team in a third down and long situation.
Quarterback Patrick White could have very well been named our offensive player of the game. The sophomore signal caller notched his second bowl victory in as many starts, and led the Mountaineers to victory after falling behind 35-17. White finished 9-16 through the air for 131 yards and two touchdowns, and added 145 yards and a touchdown on the ground. White was named Gator Bowl MVP, though head coach Rich Rodriguez mistakenly picked up that trophy during the post-game awards ceremony before yielding it to his sophomore quarterback.
Senior wide receiver Brandon Myles capped off his excellent career by hauling in six catches for 54 yards and a touchdown from White. Myles made a beautiful leaping catch on a high throw for a first down in the third quarter, and also had a good game blocking downfield for Schmitt and White. His touchdown catch, which was more difficult than it appeared, and afterward he nearly pulled a Forrest Gump by running up the tunnel behind the end zone.
Reserve quarterback Nate Sowers had a great game ... on special teams. The pride of Martinsburg recorded a pair of tackles on the kickoff team, including the shot of the day on a kickoff return by Georgia Tech's Jamaal Evans.
On the play, Evans cut back toward Sowers, who maintained his lane beautifully and exploded through Evans, pounding him to the ground.