Rutgers sees stars .... named Slaton and White
PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers rides Ray Rice.
It's a nice weapon to have, unless you are playing West Virginia, as the Scarlet Knights did on a dreary, drizzly, windy Saturday afternoon.
Then it's like going into an axe fight with a knife.
Oh, West Virgnia couldn't put a saddle on Rice, the horse Rutgers was riding. He recorded his 20th 100-yard game for Rutgers, which is a school record, while surpassing 4,000 rushing yards to become the first Scarlet Knight to accomplish such a feat.
See, the No. 7-ranked Mountaineers, have an arsenal of weapons in running back Steve Slaton and quarterback Patrick White and Rutgers couldn't deal with them.
"Ray Rice got his yards," said WVU coach Rich Rodriguez, referring to the 142 total yards Rice compiled. "But they were 5- and 6-yard runs. Sometimes 2 or 3 yards. The key was he never really broke one."
The performances of the White and Slaton, along with a rock-ribbed defense, allowed the Mountaineers to simply shrug at Rice's 4- and 5- and 6-yard gains while running up a convincing 31-3 victory to move to 7-1, 2-1 in the Big East Conference. As for Rutgers, the defeat in front of a home sellout of 43,620 that had more than just their spirits dampened, left the Scarlet Knight with three losses in a season that began with great promise.
IIt was a game of big plays, and all of them were made by West Virginia, be they White running or White throwing, Slaton running or Slaton running after catching passes.
Slaton wasted little time establishing the difference between West Virginia's razzle and dazzle offense and Rutgers' Little Red Choo Choo "I think I can, I think I can offense."
It started on the Mountaineers' second possession when he improvised a 38-yard touchdown out of a play that began as if it might get the running back dismantled.
The "O" on the play, as drawn by Coach Rich Rodriguez, was supposed to run to the left but Rutgers had a welcoming committee of "X's" awaiting Slaton, so he changed direction, made a nifty fake, then cut to the right sideline and dived into the end zone.
"I finally played the way I want to play," said Slaton, who had been having trouble getting untracked. "After that first touchdown run I felt like now I could do it."
It was his first of three touchdowns in the game, which give him 52 for his career, only the second Big East back with more than 50 touchdowns. Lee Suggs of Virignia Tech holds the record at 56.
White gave the Mountaineers their second score from the Rutgers 1, spectacular only in that he fumbled as he was going in and had survive a review.
WVU led, 17-3, at the half and Rutgers seemed prepared to make a run at them, naturally with Rice doing the running. On their first possession, the Scarlet Knights built a 13-play drive around Rice that stalled with a holding penalty and ended with a missed field goal.
Still, Rutgers seemed to have momentum, especially when they had WVU facing a third and 7 at its own 21 on its next possession.
On this play Rodriguez called for a screen pass from White to Slaton, a play that broke open when left guard Ryan Stanchek cut not one defender to the turf to prolong Slaton's life as a runner, but two as he then gave him a lane after getting to his feet and making yet another cut block.
By the time Slaton was wrapped up he had 51 yards and WVU had a first down at the Rutgers' 27. Five plays later, Slaton circled left end for a score that made it 24-3.
Now it was just a matter of what White or Slaton would do next, Rice being taken out of the equation by the score and Rutgers receivers unable to catch anything except for a cold, dropping seven passes, two in the end zone.
White broke loose for another long gainer in the fourth quarter, slithering for 50 yards to set up another Slaton TD, this one from six yards out.
"When Pat does his thing, everyone does well," Slaton said.
With his performance, that included 156 rushing yards and 10 for 16 for 144 yards passing, giving him 300 combined yards, there were some saying White was injecting himself back into the Heisman Trophy picture.
Rodriguez hedged when asked about it. "I don't have a vote," he said. "But I know if you ask any coach who has a great player or players, he'll always pick his guy. I do know this. Pat White is one of the best players in America."
West Virginia is off this week, then plays at home against Louisville on Thursday, Nov. 8. Rutgers plays at UConn next Saturday.