Passing grade for W. Virginia
White and Slaton throw complete game in win
PITTSBURGH -- West Virginia stars Pat White and Steve Slaton weren't satisfied with running all over rival Pittsburgh. Now they're teaming up as a pass combination in a rivalry they've made one-sided with two spectacular games.
White and Slaton crossed up Pitt by teaming as a passing combination in a high-scoring first half, then put away the Panthers with a string of long runs in a comeback second half to lead No. 8 West Virginia's 45-27 victory last night.
The Mountaineers (9-1, 4-1 Big East) beat their biggest rival for the fourth time in five seasons, though not quite as easily as in last year's 45-13 romp in Morgantown in which White and Slaton combined for 399 of West Virginia's 451 yards rushing.
Pittsburgh (6-5, 2-4) led, 27-24, at the half before being overwhelmed by West Virginia's playmaking speed in the second half in which the Mountaineers ran for 371 of their 438 yards rushing.
White, the sophomore option quarterback whose quickness again was too much for the Panthers to handle, threw for 204 yards and hit Slaton on the running back's first two touchdown receptions this season.
"We knew we had to set the tone from the beginning," White said.
White ran for touchdowns of 64 and 19 yards on the Mountaineers' first two possessions of the second half. He finished with 220 yards rushing against Pitt for the second season in a row.
"I've been coaching college ball for a long time, and that's as good a performance as I've seen a quarterback play," West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said.
Slaton, the nation's No. 2 rusher, was held to 7 yards on six carries in the first half, but still became the first player in school history to have more than 100 yards rushing (215) and receiving (130) in a game. He had touchdown runs of 15 and 55 yards and scoring catches of 11 and 67 yards, as well as another 43-yard catch as a slot receiver. Slaton ran for 179 yards against Pitt last season.
The Panthers must beat No. 10 Louisville Nov. 25 to avoid a season-ending five-game losing streak after starting 6-1. They already are assured of their first losing record in the Big East since 1999. West Virginia remains in contention for a BCS bowl despite losing to Louisville two weeks ago.
Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko tried to keep the Panthers in the game with two touchdown passes, but was sacked eight times and got nothing going in a second half in which Pitt was outgained, 373-30. West Virginia finished with a 641-295 edge in total yardage.
"We were pretty pleased at halftime," Palko said. "We were feeling pretty good. But we couldn't come out and execute what we wanted to do in the second half."
The 99th edition of the game now known as the Backyard Brawl kicked off one of college football's most awaited weekends, the rivalry week that features No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Michigan tomorrow.
West Virginia's offense was everything it expected to be in the first half, except for its reliance on throwing rather than running. The major surprise was that Pitt, held to 10 points by Rutgers in its last home game, not only kept up but led, 27-24, at halftime as Palko threw touchdown passes of 23 yards to Nate Byham and 15 yards to Oderick Turner.
The play that Pitt fans will most remember is Darrelle Revis's adventuresome 73-yard punt return down the sideline that put the Panthers up, 24-17, with 2:18 remaining in the half.
On one of the most dazzling special teams plays in Pitt history, Revis used two spin moves to elude three tacklers inside the West Virginia 25 before finally reaching the end zone -- Pitt's first punt return score since Revis's 79-yarder against Cincinnati last season.
The only problem was Revis's return left West Virginia with plenty enough time to score, with White hitting Slaton for 67 yards on their second pass play touchdown of the half. Conor Lee's 39-yard field goal with three seconds left put Pitt back on top at the break.