WVU's White, Slaton Double Trouble for Pitt
Gorman, Kevin, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
For nearly 31 minutes, the 99th Backyard Brawl lived up to its name.
Pitt and West Virginia came out swinging, and each wild blow was answered by a haymaker in an endless and breathless display of offense.
Then, reality intervened, as did Pat White and Steve Slaton.
Forty-eight seconds into the second half, White's 64-yard dash gave No. 8 West Virginia a lead it wouldn't surrender. And Slaton's 55-yarder was the knockout blow in a 45-27 victory over Pitt on Thursday night before 55,642 at Heinz Field and an ESPN national television audience.
"We knew we'd take a good shot from Pitt, and we got it," West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said.
Added Slaton: "I don't think any other team has two threats like us -- guys who can take it the distance on any play."
Slaton scored four touchdowns and became the first player in West Virginia history to finish with 100 or more yards rushing (215 on 23 carries) and receiving (130 on six receptions) in a game, finishing with career highs in both categories.
"They were sticking a linebacker with me," Slaton said, referring to Pitt sophomore Tommie Campbell. "It was just a mismatch."
Yet Slaton took a backseat to White, who rushed for 220 yards and two touchdowns and completed 11-of-16 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
"Pat White is one of the best quarterbacks I've ever been around," Rodriguez said. "I think Pat White is one of the best in the country."
Imagine if he was healthy. White was bothered by turf toe.
West Virginia entered with the nation's No. 3 offense, averaging 462.89 yards per game. The Mountaineers nearly ran for that many (437 on 47 carries) and outgained the Panthers, 641-340, in total offense.
Surprisingly, it's not a record against Pitt, as Virginia Tech had 675 in 1993.
"I'm shaking my head at a lot of things right now," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "You'd like to think we're better than that. (Last night), we weren't."
With Pitt's defense geared to stop Slaton, White led West Virginia (9-1, 4-1 Big East) to 268 first-half yards.
When Pitt (6-5, 2-4) adjusted to stop the Mountaineers' sophomore quarterback, Slaton answered by showing he was a dual threat, catching scoring passes of 11 and 67 yards.
"There's not too many people that can run with Steve," White said. "He just ran by him, and I put the ball there."
The Mountaineers needed every yard in a first half, when Pitt threw the first punch and kept swinging until time expired. There were five lead exchanges, including one on a dazzling, 73-yard punt return by Pitt's Darrelle Revis, before Conor Lee's 39-yard field goal with 56 seconds left gave the Panthers a 27-24 halftime edge.
"We've got to find a way to close games, whether it's the last seven minutes or the second half," said Wannstedt, whose Panthers blew a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead in a 46-45, double-overtime loss at Connecticut last Saturday. "When you get somebody in position where you have an opportunity to put them away, you have to do that."
White and Pitt's Tyler Palko combined to complete 26-of-32 passes for 433 yards and four touchdowns, as the teams accounted for 533 yards total offense on 61 plays.
That was just in the first half, mind you.
Once Pitt fell behind, however, the Panthers were forced to throw. Although Palko finished 28 of 37 for 341 yards and two touchdowns, West Virginia sacked him eight times. The Panthers finished with minus-1 rushing yards, as LaRod Stephens-Howling's 35 yards on nine carries were offset by Palko's minus-40. …