Byline: Barker Davis, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Welcome back to the beginning.
For West Virginia's unparalleled backfield duo, the run of a lifetime began against Louisville.
It was almost exactly one year ago when West Virginia backup quarterback Pat White trotted onto the field in Morgantown in place of injured starter Adam Bednarik late in the third quarter with the Mountaineers trailing Louisville 24-7.
"I wasn't used to running with the first team, so the only real familiar face in the huddle was Steve [Slaton]," said White, referencing the then-true freshman tailback who was making just his second start of the season against the Cardinals. "I looked at Steve, and he nodded and said, 'Let's do this.' "
The rest is the stuff of heroic lore in the land of muskets and buckskin.
Behind the freshman pair of White and Slaton, West Virginia scored 17 unanswered fourth-quarter points and eventually prevailed 46-44 in triple overtime. Slaton rushed for 188 yards and five touchdowns and also caught a touchdown pass. White ran for 69 yards and passed for 49 more and the winning two-point conversion.
The two have been inseparable on the field and off ever since, leading the Mountaineers (7-0, 2-0 Big East) to 14 consecutive victories and the nation's No. 3 ranking heading into tonight's highly anticipated rematch with No. 5 Louisville (7-0, 2-0) at Papa John's Stadium.
"I think you're talking about the most dangerous 1-2 punch in the college game," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said of White and Slaton. "If you bat an eye or blow a tackle, they're lining up for an extra point."
Statistics certainly back up Petrino's claim. Through the first half of the season, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Slaton ranks fourth in the nation in rushing (151.29 a game) and leads all backs with more than 100 carries with a gaudy average of 7.01 yards an attempt. The 6-2, 190-pound White has contributed 619 yards to the nation's top rushing attack (319.0 yards a game) and leads all quarterbacks by gaining 8.5 yards an attempt.
It's hard to come up with a comparable major conference pair. Nebraska option greats Turner Gill and Tommie Frazier never came close to the 1,000-yard barrier or to matching the productivity of their I-back running mates (Mike Rozier and Ahman Green/Lawrence Phillips, respectively).
For all the talk of his scintillating scrambling ability, Virginia Tech's Michael Vick gained just 585 yards rushing in his spectacular freshman campaign (1999). …