The greatest player in West Virginia football history completed his career with another record-breaking performance as the Mountaineers defeated North Carolina 31-30 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Patrick White threw for a career-high 332 yards and three scores as WVU rallied in the fourth quarter to win its fourth consecutive bowl games. Each of those wins was engineered by White, who is believed to be the only starting quarterback to win four consecutive bowl games.
White was a stunningly accurate 26-32 passing the ball, and had just one bad throw all day – a late second quarter toss into the end zone that was intercepted by the Tar Heels. However, that miscue just proved White is only a bit shy of superhuman, as the departing senior willed his teammates to another victory.
"There's just no doubt he's going to do something to win the game," wide receiver/quarterback Bradley Starks said afterward. "You work with him every day, and you see him when he's down or up. But you just know that you can count on him. There's not a doubt that ever runs through your head."
White, give the ball with eight minutes to go, engineered a spectacular go-ahead drive to win the game. He picked up nine yards on a keeper and completed two passes for 61 yards, the second of which was a bullet between two safeties to Alric Arnett for the game-winner.
White added 55 yards rushing and went out the way he burst onto the scene against Louisville back in 2005 – as the architect of a memorable comeback victory.
Defensively, Nate Sowers stepped into the starting lineup and played a solid game in earning player of the game honors for coordinator Jeff Casteel's unit. Sowers had five tackles on the day, but that total included two goal line stops that keyed another Mountaineer goal line stand. West Virginia, the best defense in the red zone in the country, stopped the Tar Heels on four tries from the two-yard line to add to their impressive record.
Sowers also contributed solid play in WVU's underneath pass defense, which didn't allow the Tar Heels to turn short receptions into long gains.
Bouncing back from mistakes was a theme of the day for West Virginia. White shook off his interception to play another spectacular game. Alric Arnett didn't let a fumble bother him as he hauled in West Virginia's winning points on the last pass of White's career. And Pat Lazear ignored the slight embarrassment of not tackling Hakim Nicks after a miraculous catch to snare the game-sealing interception with 1:22 to play.
It sounds a bit cliche, but WVU was able to put those bad plays behind them, ignore the temptation to go for a spectacular make-up play, and keep executing its game plan. In doing so, the Mountaineers avoided compounding mistakes, and were able to rally for a satisfying season-ending win.
West Virginia did not bang its offensive head against a North Carolina defense designed to stop White and Noel Devine on the ground. The Mountaineers threw the ball all over the field, and varied the passing targets to maximum effect. WVU threw more passes in the middle of the field that it had in any other game this year, and the results were just short of spectacular. Alric Arnett and Bradley Starks had three touchdown reception on post patters, while Tyler Urban and Jock Sanders also had big catches in the middle of the UNC defense.
West Virginia's ability to attack those areas of the field made them difficult to defend, and resulted in 455 yards of total offense -- 332 through the air.
Patrick McAfee closed out a career that probably won't get the appreciation it deserves until several years down the road. He was again a field position assassin, averaging 44.3 yards on his three punts. He placed two inside the 20-yard line, including one that was killed at the one. However, it was the final boot of his career that was the best. From his own 24, McAfee boomed a 50-yard kick that forced a Carolina fair catch on the 26-yard line. That boot flipped field position, just as many of his kicks have, and set the Mountaineer defense up with some room to play with.