WVU's Pat White: A Long, Hard Look

Frank AhrensSenior Writer IAugust 19, 2008

Coach Bill Stewart calls his senior quarterback, Pat White, the greatest winner in college football. At 26-4 as a starter, it’s hard to argue with that assessment, statistically.

White may very well become college football’s all-time leading rusher this season.

Stewart says West Virginia University fans should “savor” every minute of White’s last season as a Mountaineer. WVU has set up a site, PatWhitePlaysHere, to hype White for the Heisman. White is the two-time defending Big East offensive player of the year and has received a number of preseason honors this year.

So is he that good?

Judging from the National Media Sports Hype Machine (ESPN, Fox Sports, the blogosphere, etc.), the winningest current college quarterback is merely an afterthought heading into this season to other superior players.

For instance, freshman Georgia Bulldog running back Knowshon Moreno, who is not only the best running back in the country, he may be the best player.

Wait, except for freshman Pittsburgh running back LaSean McCoy, who is not only the best running back in the country, he might be the best player.

Wait, except for Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Or Mizzou quarterback Chase Daniel. Or don’t forget last year’s Heisman winner Tim Tebow. Or...you get the point.

The National Sports Hype Machine can’t help itself. It falls for the shiny new thing. It’s why White, Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt appeared on a regional Sports Illustrated cover after WVU’s upset victory over Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl.

But now, White is a senior and is yesterday’s news. I’ve read some blogs and articles that made the perfunctory “how old is Pat White, 26?” jokes, unaccustomed as they are to a player so good he a) starts as a freshman and b) stays to get his degree.

So let’s take a look at White’s career thus far.

It doesn’t take long to list his losses. There are only four of them: to Louisville and South Florida in 2006 and to South Florida and Pitt in 2007.

Let's examine the magnitude of those losses: The Louisville loss ruined an undefeated bid in 2006 but did not ruin the season. The South Florida loss did that, knocking WVU out of a BCS bowl.

Because of the topsy-turvy nature of the 2007 season, the South Florida loss only cost the Mountaineers an undefeated season, not the season. WVU was set to play for the national championship if it beat Pitt, which it did not, which is White’s fourth and most recent loss.

Here are his stats from each loss:

Louisville, 2006, a 44-34 loss: 13-20, 222 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 23 rushes for 141 yards and an eye-popping 4 TDs. Slaton’s fumbles and Scott Koslowski’s poor punting cost WVU this game, not White. In WVU’s most important game of this year, thus far, he plays excellently.

South Florida, 2006, a 24-19 loss: 14-22, 178 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 15 rushes for net-26 yards. WVU had three fumbles, two lost, one a costly White fumble that was returned for the difference-making touchdown. Put this loss on White. In a season-making game, White plays poorly.

South Florida, 2007, a 21-13 loss: 12-18, 100 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, nine rushes for 36 yards.  White was injured for much of this game after taking a helmet to the thigh while running. There is no question South Florida, for a second straight year, shut down the WVU attack. But a healthy White would have given WVU a better chance to win than backup quarterback Jarrett Brown. A push on this one: it’s not White’s fault he got injured, but he produced no touchdowns while in the game.

Pitt, 2007, a 13-9 loss: 5-10, 50 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 14 rushes for 41 yards. Again, White is injured for much of the game, dislocating his thumb on his non-throwing hand. Pitt’s defensive game plan held WVU to a shocking 183 yards. Who lost this game? Spread it around: the usually reliable Pat McAfee missed two field goals, former coaches Rich Rodriguez and Calvin Magee called the worst game of their lives and White was a non-factor as he was out for much of the game. But he returned in the fourth quarter and, by his own admission, had 6-foot-4 wide receiver Wes Lyons on a shorter cornerback running to the end zone and threw the ball out of bounds.

In the post-season, White is three-for-three in bowl games and was named the offensive MVP in the 2007 Gator Bowl and 2008 Fiesta Bowl. It is not overstating the matter to say he single-handedly willed WVU passed Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl, rallying WVU for 18 third-quarter points without Slaton, who went out in the first quarter. And he was near-perfect in the Fiesta Bowl.

During the regular season, White has rushed for back-to-back-to-back 100-yard games, something the great Vince Young never did. He is a career 64 percent passer. He has rushed for 39 TDs and thrown for 35, with only 16 interceptions.

He has rushed for 247 yards and four TDs in a game and 428 yards of offense in a single game. In his three seasons at WVU, the Mountaineers have had three 11-win seasons. Prior to White, WVU had had only two 11-win seasons since 1891.

I am inclined to believe Coach Stewart. It’s why I’ll be at every WVU home game this year except for one and three road games. I hope I will see Pat White play quarterback in the NFL, but in reality, I know this season is probably the last time I will ever see him the position he was born to play.

I’ve been following WVU football since the late ‘70s, and have seen Robert Alexander, Oliver Luck, Jeff Hostetler, Major Harris, Marc Bulger, Amos Zereoue, Avon Cobourne, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine.

Pat White is the best player WVU fans are likely to see in their lifetimes. They should indeed savor every last moment of his final season as a Mountaineer, which begins a week from Saturday.


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