Royal Review: WVU - UNC

The Duke offers his take on a very satisfying conclusion to the 2008 football season.

10. In an absolute thriller, an announced crowd of 73,712 saw the West Virginia University Mountaineers beat back the University of North Carolina Tar Hills by the score of 31-30. I've seen many great games, but this game was different, in that I felt like I couldn't leave my seat for a second or I'd miss a great play. It was just that exciting. West Virginia's Patrick White (332 yards passing, completed 26 of 32 attempts, three touchdown passes and 55 yards rushing) and North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks (eight catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns) appearing to be playing on another level.

9. While there were many "keys" to winning this game, West Virginia going 12 for 19 on third down conversions was significant. Also significant was Bradley Starks' four catches for 61 yards including a 35-yard touchdown and Tyler Urban's two receptions for 43 yards. Starks appears to be finally comfortable as a receiver after a rocky start early in the season. Urban's two receptions on the first drive of the third quarter lead to a Pat McAfee field goal which enabled West Virginia to regain the lead.

8. While there were many great plays in this game by both teams, White's 44-yard pass to Alric Arnett for a touchdown in the first quarter gets my vote as the most impressive of the game. Hakeem Nicks had just caught a 73-yard touchdown pass that should have been intercepted by Ellis Lankster, but West Virginia didn't allow that to distract it. White threw a strike to Arnett, who pulled the pass in with one hand. That catch will go down in Mountaineer history as one of the great plays in a bowl game.

7. While the Meineke Car Care Bowl doesn't have the prestige and history of other bowl games, this is easily one of my favorite bowl game sites. For many Mountaineers fans, it is either an easy drive or a quick direct flight to Charlotte. The hotels are within walking distance of the stadium. Charlotte is very clean and has many great attractions. The game is played in an NFL stadium which has great amenities. Friday night Charlotte was rocking and it was if Morgantown and been relocated just a few hundred miles south.

6. It was interesting watching sophomore nose tackle Chris Neild taking charge on defense. In the pre-game ritual where players gather in a circle and sway back and forth, Neild was in the middle doing his best Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis impersonation. The ever-improving defender yelled and got his teammates lathered up. It was also Neild going up and down the sidelines in the third quarter challenging everyone on defense to pick it up on the next series. He could be one of the players to take over for some of the departing leaders on next year's team.

5. As in any great contest, the game was full of highs and lows. West Virginia had a tremendous defensive stand in the second quarter, stopping North Carolina on first and goal from the two-yard line. The Tar Heels ran Ryan Houston three consecutive times for no gain, and then West Virginia stopped quarterback T.J. Yates on fourth and 2. On the very next play, West Virginia was charged with a safety, albeit questionably, as Noel Devine was caught in the end zone. After the ensuing free kick, North Carolina drove the ball downfield for a score to take the lead. It was just that sort of ebb and flow, repeated several times through the game, that made it so entertaining and exciting.

4. I couldn't help but think that the West Virginia offense performance had to excite high school recruits, as they were able to see the offense of the future. Congratulations to offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen, as his play calling and schemes really came together this afternoon. I was worried that Butch Davis's NFL experience would come into play, as he had an extended period of time to break down West Virginia's film, but Coach Mullen and the team were up for the challenge.

3. West Virginia linebacker Pat Lazear also felt the highs and lows of the game. In the third quarter Pat let up on a tackle of North Carolina wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, thinking that Nicks had dropped a pass, but Nicks actually pinned the ball against his butt and managed to haul it in. However, Lazear certainly made up for it with a game-ending interception of T.J. Yates.

2. The post game celebration was memorable as Dorrell Jalloh was waving the West Virginia flag as he ran around the field. Head coach Bill Stewart was having a ball during the trophy presentation, leading the 'Let's Go Mountaineers' cheers, while the playing of John Denver's "Country Roads" also drew big cheers. As always, it was a great job by the Pride of West Virginia, both at pep rallies Friday night and the game on Saturday.

1. West Virginia fans, and really, college football fans around the country, got to see one of the best quarterbacks in the history of college football in White. He's the all-time leader in rushing yards for a quarterback with 4,480 yards and he is the only starting quarterback to win four bowl games. And how many quarterbacks can say they won two BCS bowls? The list, I'm sure, is very short.

I've never deviated in my belief that White will play quarterback in the NFL. He was throwing lasers against North Carolina that were on the mark, and in many cases North Carolina had good coverage on the play. It is hard to believe that only one college offered Pat White a scholarship to play quarterback – West Virginia University. While West Virginia will continue to win and have great teams it will never be same without #5 at quarterback. Pat, thank you for all the memories.

Gang, despite not achieving what we had hoped to achieve early in the season, it ended up being a pretty good ride in 2008. We've seen the future of Mountaineer football and it looks pretty good. Take care and we'll see you in Morgantown in April for the Blue-Gold game. Have Happy New Year!

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