Mountaineer Horses Outrun Broncos

It was déjà vu all over again in Morgantown on Saturday afternoon. The Mountaineers rolled to a 62-24 win over Western Michigan behind big games from junior quarterback Pat White and junior running back Steve Slaton, avoiding the upset bug that bit another blue and gold team earlier in the day.

Prior to the game, West Virginia's new team entrance video provided plenty of rock to pump up the crowd. White and the Mountaineer offense did their part by bringing plenty of roll. The result was another lopsided win for the Mountaineers. White threw for 192 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for another 97 yards and two scores to lead No. 3 West Virginia. Slaton added 170 total yards and four scores to kick off his Heisman Trophy campaign.

It was clear from the beginning of the game that the Broncos were going to do everything in their power to limit the effectiveness of Slaton. Western Michigan's defense crammed eight, and sometimes as many as nine or ten defenders into the box early and often on Saturday afternoon, limiting Slaton to just 24 yards on eight carries in the opening half.

Unfortunately for the men from Kalamazoo, focusing on Slaton did nothing but allow White to completely take over the game from the beginning.

It began on West Virginia's first play, a 12-yard gain off of a bubble screen to slot receiver Darius Reynaud. After six successive running plays, White found junior Dorrell Jalloh over the middle for a 19-yard score for WVU's first points of the season.

On the Mountaineers' next possession, the Broncos again keyed on Slaton in the running game. What they weren't counting on was Slaton as a receiver. The junior speedster slipped out of the backfield, took a short pass from White, and quickly zipped 50 yards upfield for a seemingly effortless score that realistically ended all hopes of a Western Michigan upset.

White put the Mountaineers on the scoreboard for a third time with an impressive, highlight-reel 38-yard touchdown run that left Bronco defenders grasping for air, and Mountaineer fans jumping for joy. Originally, it looked like White was going nowhere in the backfield as the Broncos wrapped him up behind the line of scrimmage. After breaking the tackle, White juked a helpless defender in the open field before dragging two would-be tacklers into the end zone for the score.

"Pat White was his usual self," said Mountaineer mentor Rich Rodriguez afterward. "Everyone wants to have that special player. He'll be the first to tell you that he missed a couple of touchdown passes that were open, but he is a tremendous football player and he's one of the best in the school's history."

Of course not all of the credit can go to the Mountaineers. The Broncos did their part by poisoning themselves with the toxic combination of turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble) and penalties (15 for 117 yards).

"I'm disappointed we game them so much early," said WMU head coach Bill Cubit. "We had too many turnovers. Little things like that put you in a tough spot and those little things bother you."

Slaton returned to his dominant form in the second half with a 58-yard jaunt up the middle for his third touchdown of the game.

"They're just a great football team," said Cubit. "They've got great talent, great speed and I guess that's why they are expected to finish so high."

In order to finish higher than ever before, the Mountaineers will need to improve on a pass defense that once again looked suspect for large portions of the game. The Broncos finished with 245 yards through the air, and converted 14 of their 18 first downs through the air. Not all of the blame can or should be pointed at the secondary, as the defense had trouble getting consistent pressure on Western Michigan quarterbacks Tim Hiller and Thomas Peregrin.

"Our guys know we can do better, so we'll take this win and move on," Rodriguez said. "I think we tackled well and we played hard. We were close to making a lot of plays.

"We have to get a pass rush and put pressure on the quarterback to help our pass defense," Rod said. "I will be looking at the film to see what we can do to help that."

The talented Broncos – picked by many to win the Mid-American Conference – made several plays in their own right.

"They made some great catches, and you have to give them credit," Rodriguez noted. "Some of the new coverages that we put in, I don't know how effective they were."

Slaton, White, and the rest of the regulars left the game after the third quarter, giving way to youngsters Jarrett Brown, Noel Devine, and Jock Sanders. Devine, the highly-touted freshman from Florida, received a standing ovation after his first carry, which went for no gain. Brown capped off his first drive with a 20-yard touchdown run, while Devine added his first Mountaineer memory with an eight-yard score late in the game.

"It was good to put the freshmen in there and get them some college experience," Rodriguez said.

The Broncos provided a test for both the Mountaineer offense and defense on opening day. Slaton, White, and the offense passed with flying (gold and blue) colors. As for the defense, it will take a little more time to determine the final grade.


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