And so, with just 150 seconds left in a game the No. 6 Mountaineers (9-1, 4-1 Big East) led 28-23 and would eventually win by the same mark, the two units stood opposed to one another, literally and figuratively. WVU, a Big East power and two-time titlist over the last three seasons, and Cincinnati, an BCS upstart and former Conference USA squad trying to spoil one season while making theirs. An onside kick was eminent, and when the Bearcats put the foot to the ball, the Mountaineers collectively put their arms around it when Boogie Allen did, holding onto the win, and a season which could well result in a national championship game berth with just a few more upsets that seem to be coming with amazing regularity.
WVU could jump as high as fourth after upsets of Oregon and Oklahoma this week. It would then need only to beat UConn and Pitt and have either LSU lose or Oklahoma beat the Kansas-Missouri winner in the Big XII title game to vault into second place provided no team jumps them. Those might be as key moment as that of Allen's recovery, and as those of quarterback Patrick White, so again seemed to will West Virginia to victory.
The junior, who rushed for 155 yards and two scores in becoming the 12th quarterback in NCAA history to eclipse 3,000 yards, put on a dazzling display against one of the Big East's best defenses. White, the first 3k Big East signal caller in Big East history, gouged UC for 67 of the 68 yards in a late push that gave the Mountaineers a needed 21-10 lead at the half. It started from the first snap, when White gave a subtle pass fake that drew a rusher past him. He then stepped up and completed a bullet to Dorrell Jalloh for 20 yards to get near midfield.
Moving methodically, White kept on the next four plays for eight, four, 13 and six yards. The Bearcats defense could not corral White, who slipped between blockers and chewed up the green between the line of scrimmage and the end zone. West Virginia never faced a third down on the possession, and, when White hit Darius Reynaud with a pass to the 12, it setup the only play in which the quarterback didn't at least have a direct hand in the gain. Superback Steve Slaton carried for one, and the Mountaineers went back to their prime Heisman candidate, who ran in off the left side for a 21-10 edge with 27 seconds left in the half. If that didn't shatter Cincinnati's confidence, it at least put a dent in it, with the Mountaineers getting the ball to start the second half.
"Pat White's a warrior," WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "I'm glad he is on our side."
Through White, the Mountaineers had established themselves as the far superior team physically, and it continued to pound upon that edge by the hammer that was White. He gradually chipped and finally cracked the UC defense, and in the process led WVU to the win over Cincinnati despite two late scares. UC scored, then recovered a fumbled exchange between White and center Mike Dent. A holding call, Johnny Dingle's second sack of the game and ninth of the season, and a break up of a screen pass effectively ended that threat, only to have White fumble on third down on the next series after the Bearcats' punted. Cincinnati got the ball at the West Virginia 24-yard line and drove down inside the five before being stopped twice. On the third play, UC tailback Bradley Glatthaar punched in over the left side against an injured Dingle. Larry Williams broke up the two-point pass to maintain the 28-23 lead, and Allen recovered the onside kick with 2:25 left. It was, in the end, the key moment. But, like most of the season, there were many of them.
"We made things interesting," Rodriguez said. "But any win's a win, and we won." Onto UConn, and the battle for the BCS berth.