Final Home Run

Pat White's magnificent Milan Puskar Stadium career will come to an end on Saturday night when South Florida comes to town.

There is only one word that can accurately describe the way that Patrick White's football career at WVU has gone.


Nothing else does White's reign in Morgantown justice. White redshirted the 2004 season as Rasheed Marshall, Chris Henry and company battled through an up-and-down year that resulted in four teams – including West Virginia – tying for the Big East title.

The following fall, White and then-sophomore quarterback Adam Bednarik battled valiantly for the starting job. Bednarik ultimately won out, with White seeing action from time-to-time in WVU's first five games.

In the sixth game, a road trip to Rutgers, Bednarik played so well that White hardly saw the field. Two carries, zero yards and one incomplete pass made up his entire stat line. His quarterbacks coach that day was Bill Stewart.

"I went up to him after the game and I said ‘Patrick, it was my call. I'm sorry I didn't play you more today," Stewart recalled last week. "We were gelling. Adam Bednarik was playing well. We were running the option and it was near Adam's home. He had a crowd up there from Bethlehem, the Lehigh Valley from where Adam is from. I remember going over to Patrick and told him I was sorry I didn't get him in there today.

"He said ‘Coach, that's ok'," Stewart continued. "Here's this big competitor that we all know. He said ‘Adam did real well today and this was his home turf. You did what was right.' Now, here was a redshirt freshman 19 years old second year of college. I denied him a chance to play in a game on TV. He made a statement like that (to) his position coach. Pretty special, huh?"

Stewart might have felt bad about not playing White more on that day, but one week later, White was back on the field in a big way.

With West Virginia trailing Louisville by 17 points in the fourth quarter, Bednarik went down with an injured foot. In came White, and down went the Cards in triple overtime. The legend of Pat White was born in earnest.

Fast forward three years later and White has done nothing but build upon the legend that started on that chilly October night in 2005. Heading into Saturday's regular-season finale against South Florida, White stands just 121 yards away from his third consecutive 1,000 yard rushing season. While his rushing numbers are slightly down this year due to missed time from injuries and adjusting to a new version of the spread offense, White is still every bit the big-play threat he's been in the past.

Two weeks ago at Louisville, White ran for 200 yards and set a new NCAA record for career rushing yards by a quarterback. In his time at WVU, he has won three straight January bowl games, including BCS wins over perennial powers such as Georgia and Oklahoma. His 99 combined touchdowns are the most in Big East history. He stands first all-time in total offense at WVU, and second in rushing yards ahead of household names such as Slaton and Zereoue. He is also second in rushing touchdowns.

In a town and state that thought it would never see another player as good as Major Harris, Patrick White has ascended to a level of his own. Stewart, now his head coach, commonly refers to White as "the greatest winner in college football." Others simply prefer the term "greatest player in school history."

Whatever you want to call him, there is no denying the fact that White has had a career unlike any other in the 116-year history of WVU football. Yet with all he's accomplished, ask White what his proudest moment as a collegian has been and he gives an answer that perhaps says more about the man than any record or award ever could.

"Getting that degree was the best success I've had since I've been here," White said without hesitation. "That's why my parents sent me here. They said if I left here without that, it was a failed mission."

Instead, it's been mission accomplished and then some for No. 5.

On Saturday, White will run out of the tunnel for the final time at Milan Puskar Stadium. The cheers, undoubtedly, will be deafening. A crowd in the neighborhood of 60,000 will stand and applaud loudly for the soft-spoken signal caller from Daphne, Ala. who now calls West Virginia his second home. Those 60,000 fans and the entire Mountaineer team will be dressed in white in honor of his magnificent career.

Friday night, White and the other seniors will be given a chance to address the team. For the past four years, he's been in the audience for these speeches.

"I don't know if I'm going to do too much talking on Friday," he admitted. "There will probably be more tears than words coming out."

It has been quite a run for White, no pun intended. Hard to believe it's almost over.

"It's starting to settle in I guess. I'm just going to enjoy it while I can," he said.

Speaking at Tuesday night interviews, White was asked if this final home week was bittersweet.

"More sweet than bitter. I've enjoyed everything about West Virginia, except for the media of course," he quipped to the sizeable throng of reporters surrounding him.

"The days really haven't been shorter I guess, but time has flown by."

An appropriate analogy for the most successful individual career on record at West Virginia.

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