WVU escapes late scare
CINCINNATI -- West Virginia quarterback Patrick White may have let his last chance to inject himself into the Heisman Trophy picture slip through his fingers but he kept a firm grasp on one of the most important victories in West Virginia football history.
White had put on a spectauclar performance through three quarters in leading WVU to a 28-10 lead but fumbled twice in the fourth quarter, allowing Cincinnati's Ben Mauk to lead his team back to 28-23 with 26 seconds to play.
But an onsides kick failed and No. 6 (BCS) WVU survived a difficult road game to go to 9-1 with home games against Connecticut and Pittsburgh remaining.
"So you want to be a football coach?" Coach Rich Rodriguez asked with a slight smile in the aftermath of this game.
Well, maybe for $1.7 million a year we can find some volunteers to put up with it, but it was a point well taken.
WVU now has to be thinking about a potential national championship game bid, even though it is quite a long shot.
With No. 2 Oregon and No. 4 Oklahoma losing this weekend, WVU's chances got a whole lot better in a season in which anything is possible, even a Mountaineer firing a musket in New Orleans.
See, two of the teams ahead of WVU are Kansas and Missouri, and they still have to play each other. While one will win, that team then is looking at a Big12 championship game.
And, as for No. 1 LSU, they must survive an SEC championship encounter, so a team like WVU or Ohio State, which has no playoff, could sneak in.
There was no sneaking done by WVU in this one. The Mountaineers used a brusing defense to keep Cincinnati in check for most of the night and a ball control offense that allowed them to possess a nearly 14 minute advantage in time of possession to win this one.
What was the key on offense, as he always is when they face adversity. An injury to Steve Slaton or a defense geared to stop the concensus All-American running back means Rodriguez turns to White and gives him the ball over and over.
"Patrick White is a true warrior," Rodriguez said.
He is also one of the slickest runners that's been seen since Gale Sayers ran across the prarie at Kansas.
White rushed the ball 2i7 times in this one for 155 yards and two touchdowns. While he put on a display of feints and fakes, giving a hip there, taking it away here, once actually faking a Cincinnati defender to the turf, don't think his yardage was simply a matter of elusiveness. He took a lot of hits, once had a facemask penalty that nearly ripped his head off, and gained the yardage in little chunks, rather than in typical long runs.
In fact, his longest run was 14 yards.
White went past 3,000 yards for his career and also ran past Vince Young, the former Texas quarterback who has begun to redefine the position in the NFL, as he reached 3,129 career rushing yards. Young had 3,127 in his career.
Slaton, who also rushed for 103 yards, just his second 100-yard performance in the past six games, also set a WVU record when he scored on a 1-yard run. Slaton broke the long-standing -- no, make that prehistoric -- record of Ira Errett Rodgers for points scored in a career.
Slaton now has 318 points, oddly a field goal more than Rodgers' 315. Rodgers was fullback and a placekicker.
Mauk was heroic in defeat, rushing for 52 yards despite a ferocious WVU pass rush that recorded five sacks for 27 yards. He completed 19 of 34 passes for 323 yards, connecting 10 times with Marcus Barnett for 210 yards and two touchdowns.
He even punted once, rolling a 36-yard punt dead inside the WVU 5.