Parallels

As I stood behind the end zone photographing Patrick White's mesmerizing 24-yard touchdown run in West Virginia's 66-21 pasting of Connecticut, the similarities of that play and WVU's path to the national title game struck me with the force of a Keilen Dykes sack.

All year, West Virginia has faced obstacles as it tried to fulfill the preseason predictions of a possible championship game appearance. The first, and the biggest, was the turnover-filled loss to South Florida, in the first of the "biggest games ever" for foes that dotted the Mountaineer schedule. And in just the same way, as White dropped back on third down and 15, his path to the line of scrimmage, never mind the first down marker or the goal line, was littered with defenders waiting to smack him to the turf.

However, as White started forward, he slipped into a gap, broke across the line of scrimmage, and cut toward the right sideline. A gain of a few yards, to be sure, but there was still a long way to go.

And thus it was for West Virginia's hopes to get back into the race for the Big East championship, and, more importantly, a BCS berth. WVU needed not one, but two losses from South Florida, as the Bulls held the tiebreaker over the Mountaineers. But lo and behold, USF, after rising to number two in the nation, lost on consecutive weekends to put West Virginia back in the driver's seat for a league title. Still, several tough foes, including Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati and UConn remained.

Back on the field, White had some space, but appeared to be contained by a loose circle of defenders. Once again, though, the best player in WVU history had an answer. He spotted an opening to his left, made a cut while running full speed, and burst into the clear.

And in just the same way, West Virginia's path to a shot at the unthinkable – a national championship – opened up. Ohio State, Oregon, Arizona State and LSU all lost to open the door. And the Mountaineers, displaying the qualities that so many people who had written them off lack, continued to win as well, handling all the challenges that remained.

As the crowd roared its approval, White emerged from the crowded right side of the field with nothing but the blue turf of the West Virginia end zone in front of him. With him went the fortunes and futures of the 2007 Mountaineers, who emerged from a similarly bleak start to stand one step away from the pinnacle of the college football world.

Yes, there's one regular season game to go. Yes, Pittsburgh would love nothing better than to throw a monkey wrench into the works. And yes, we all should follow Coach Rod's dictum this week to keep the focus on the Pitt game, because WVU has to win that one to get to the big one. But as White crossed the goal line, and WVU took another step toward the summit, my thoughts were on West Virginia's season-long comeback – and the road the Mountaineers travelled to get to this point. Like White's weaving, twisting run, it's something to admire.


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