No. 8 West Virginia 45, Pittsburgh 27
Friday, November 17th 2006, 6:22 am
By: News On 6
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Two stars, two exceptional games. Pittsburgh has already seen enough of West Virginia's Pat White and Steve Slaton to last a lifetime, and the Panthers still might oppose them two more times.
White and Slaton crossed up Pitt by teaming as a passing combination in a high-scoring first half, then put away the Panthers for the second season in a row with a string of long runs in a comeback second half to lead No. 8 West Virginia's 45-27 victory Thursday night.
The Mountaineers (9-1, 4-1 Big East) beat their biggest rival for the fourth time in five seasons, though not quite as easily as in last year's 45-13 romp in Morgantown in which White and Slaton combined for 399 of West Virginia's 451 yards rushing.
Pittsburgh (6-5, 2-4) led 27-24 at the half before being overwhelmed by West Virginia's playmaking speed in a scoreless second half in which the Mountaineers had 371 of their 438 yards rushing. West Virginia finished with a 641-295 edge in total yardage, outgaining Pitt 373-30 in the second half.
White, the sophomore option quarterback whose quickness again was too much for Pitt to handle, threw for 204 yards and hit Slaton on the running back's first two touchdown receptions this season.
``We knew we had to set the tone from the beginning,'' White said.
White ran for touchdowns of 64 and 19 yards on the Mountaineers' first two possessions of the second half. He finished with 220 yards rushing against Pitt for the second season in a row as West Virginia's two stars again turned the rivalry very one-sided.
``I've been coaching college ball for a long time, and that's as good a performance as I've seen a quarterback play,'' West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said.
Slaton, the nation's No. 2 rusher, was held to 7 yards on six carries in the first half, but still became the first player in school history to have more than 100 yards rushing (215) and receiving (130) in a game. He had scoring catches of 11 and 67 yards, as well as another 43-yard catch as a slot receiver, and touchdown runs of 15 and 55 yards.
``I was open a lot (as a receiver) and we wanted to get mismatches in the open field,'' said Slaton, who, like White, is a sophomore. ``We're a great combination.''
And Pitt might have to face these guys again in 2007 and 2008?
``Pat White is the best quarterback in college football,'' Pitt linebacker H.B. Blades said. ``And Steve Slaton, he does pretty much everything.''
Their two-season totals against Pitt: White has 440 yards and four touchdowns rushing and 245 yards and three touchdowns passing. Slaton has 394 yards and four touchdowns rushing and seven catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver.
``We're just showing our talent,'' Slaton said.
Pitt must beat No. 10 Louisville on Nov. 25 to avoid a season-ending five-game losing streak after starting 6-1. The Panthers already are assured of their first losing record in the Big East since 1999. West Virginia remains in contention for a BCS bowl despite losing to Louisville two weeks ago, with games remaining against South Florida and Rutgers.
Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko tried to keep the Panthers in the game with two touchdown passes, but was sacked eight times and got nothing going in the second half.
``We were pretty pleased at halftime,'' Palko said. ``We were feeling pretty good. But we couldn't come and out and execute what we wanted to do in the second half.''
The 99th edition of the game now known as the Backyard Brawl kicked off one of college football's most awaited weekends, the rivalry week that features No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Michigan on Saturday.
West Virginia's offense was everything it expected to be in the first half, except for its reliance on throwing rather than running. The major surprise was that Pitt, held to 10 points by Rutgers in its last home game, not only kept up but led 27-24 at halftime as Palko threw touchdown passes of 23 yards to Nate Byham and 15 yards to Oderick Turner.
The play that Pitt fans will most remember is Darrelle Revis' adventuresome 73-yard punt return down the Panthers sideline that put Pitt up 24-17 with 2:18 remaining in the half. Revis took off after a thunderous block by wide receiver Derek Kinder so leveled West Virginia's Ridwan Malik that Malik took out one of his own teammates.
The only problem was Revis' return left West Virginia with plenty enough time to score, with White hitting Slaton for 67 yards on their second pass play touchdown of the half.
After West Virginia was held to 67 yards rushing in the first half, White got outside on the second play from scrimmage of the second half for a 64-yard scoring run that give the Mountaineers a 31-27 lead. On West Virginia's next possession, White needed only four plays to drive them 97 yards for a touchdown.