During pregame warm-ups on Saturday morning at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, players from West Virginia and Louisville engaged in what head coach Bill Stewart described as some "good-natured jawing".
Once the ball was kicked to begin the game, WVU quarterback Pat White let his play on the field do the talking for him.
White rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, and threw for another 122 yards and two scores to lead the Mountaineers to a 35-21 win over the struggling Cardinals.
In the process, White continued his assault on the West Virginia, Big East and NCAA record books. His 200 yards on the ground moved White past former Missouri great Brad Smith on the NCAA's career quarterback rushing yardage list. His seven-yard touchdown run in the third quarter moved him into first place on the Big East's career touchdown responsible for list with 97, passing Syracuse legend Donovan McNabb. White finished the game with five total touchdowns. Just for kicks, White broke a three-way tie with former teammate Steve Slaton and WVU great Amos Zereoue for the most 200-yard rushing days in WVU history.
"Pat's a phenomenal player," said embattled Louisville head coach Steve Kragthorpe, whose Cards are in jeopardy of missing a bowl game for the second straight season. "We had him dead-to-rights a couple of times and he gets away. We knew coming into the game we had to stop Pat, but we didn't do that. He had a couple of big passes."
White's first touchdown of the afternoon came off of a quarterback sweep around the right side. One big block from Jock Sanders was all it took to spring White free, with the Daphne, Ala. doing the rest en route to a 66-yard gallop into the end zone.
In the third quarter alone, White was responsible for three Mountaineer scores. His 28-yard touchdown strike to Dorrell Jalloh on an inside post route capped a quick five-play, 62-yard drive to open the second half and give West Virginia the lead for good.
On Louisville's first possession of the quarter, cornerback Ellis Lankster stripped the ball from U of L receiver Chris Vaughn, with Julian Miller pouncing on the loose pigskin to recover for WVU. Two plays later, White got loose again, this time for a 43-yard scoring jaunt down the U of L sideline.
A 25-yard touchdown pass to Jock Sanders in the fourth quarter wrapped up White's scoring for the day. Late in the game, he would pass Smith for first place on the quarterback rushing list with a four-yard run. A loss of one on the next play actually moved White back into a tie with Smith, but he would move into sole possession of first again with a two-yard run on WVU's final possession of the day.
"When I'm done, I'll probably sit down and think about (the records)," White said afterward. "Right now, I'm just going to get ready for my last two (games)."
In reality, the Mountaineers could have – and should have – won this game by more. Kicker Pat McAfee missed a 21-yard field goal in the second quater.
Later, Noel Devine's 79-yard run gave West Virginia a first-and-goal from the Louisville six, but a delay of game penalty pushed the Mountaineers back five yards. On second and goal from the seven, Louisville was called for defensive holding, giving West Virginia another first-and-goal, this time from the three.
In four attempts from inside the five, however, WVU could not cross the goalline. Backup quarterback Jarrett Brown came in on third-and-goal to attempt a sneak. The play was ruled as a no-gain on the field, and then upheld after an instant replay review from the booth. On fourth-and-goal, Noel Devine was given a touchdown, but the review from the booth correctly ruled his knee hit the turf before he crossed the goal.
"I was so frustrated at the half to have 215 yards rushing and two blocwn opportunities," said Stewart.
"When you're in on the one inch line and don't get in, and you're inside the five-yardline for four plays and don't get in it is definitely very frustrating, especially for the (offensive line) because they work so hard," White explained. "We didn't get in. Everybody kept their composure, kept working. We came out in the second half and had a pretty good day."
That they did. Perhaps spurred on by their own first-half struggles, the Mountaineers came out with a renewed purpose after halftime. Though West Virginia ran just 11 plays and held the ball for only 4:16 in the third quarter, the Mountaineers scored 21 points and accumulated 122 total yards to blow the game open. WVU scored on three of its four possessions in the quarter, and capitalized on two U of L turnovers with White's aforementioned rushing touchdowns.
"That hurt us," said Kragthorpe. "They took the opening drive (of the second half) down and scored, and then on our drive, we get the first down yardage and fumble. We get a couple of balls batted down when we've got guys wide open. The margin for error when you're lpaying good teams like West Virginia is very, very small, so you've got to make sure you're capitalizing on every situation and we're not doing that."
Devine finished with 154 yards on just 13 carries for a hefty 11.8 yards-per-carry average. As a team, the Mountaineers ran for 376 yards on 41 carries.
"We watched film and just studied," said Devine. "We just keep a basic offense that we run. Run the quarterback and run the ball.
"When we execute, we are hard to stop."
West Virginia's defense gave up 474 yards on the afternoon, but more than made up for that with five takeaways.
"We did have good numbers, but we also had a big number in turnovers," lamented Kragthorpe. "You can't turn it over five times because you're just killing yourself."
The win is the first for West Virginia at Louisville since a 30-21 win at the old Cardinal Stadium in 1989. The Mountaineers are now 32-7 with White as the starting quarterback, and leads the all-time series with Louisville 8-2.
Most importantly, WVU keeps pace with Cincinnati and Pitt for first place in the Big East standings. The Panthers and Bearcats face off Saturday night in Cincinnati. A Pitt win would set up, in essence, a Big East title game on Friday afternoon at Heinz Field when the Mountaineers travel north for the 100th edition of the Backyard Brawl.