How to stop Mountaineers ‘White’-hot QB

Published 8:43 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2008

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — After swiping the crown off the heads of the reining ACC champions on Saturday with a BCS-busting “Tech-nical” knockout over the 15th-ranked Hokies, the Pirates will once again try to KO a conference king as they host Big East title-holding West Virginia this weekend in Greenville.
The No. 8 ranked Mountaineers come to town fresh off of a 48-21 drubbing of Villanova thanks to a white-hot performance by West Virginia senior quarterback Patrick White who threw five TD passes, while completing 75 percent of his attempts for 208 yards last Saturday.
When Rich Rodriguez bolted for Michigan, Bill Stewart took over the coaching duties and promised a more passer-friendly offense. However, White was still dynamic when it came to toting the rock as he averaged seven-yards per carry for a team-leading 63 yards.
Fans who watched last season’s match up between East Carolina and West Virginia know that White presents a major problem for coach Skip Holtz and his crew.
As a junior, White carved up the ECU defense for 202 yards through the air and ran for 42 yards and a pair of scores to lead Mountaineers to a 48-7 thrashing of the Pirates.
White is the key that unlocks the Mountaineers’ explosive offense, as he has the ability to scramble away from pressure and make the throw, as well as cut it up field for a huge gain on the ground.
Last year White not only led West Virginia in passing with 1,724 yards, but also in running as he edged out Houston Texans’ third-round pick Steve Slaton for a team-high 1,335 rushing yards.
While Holtz might have gotten a good night’s rest after knocking off Virginia Tech on Saturday, you can bet he will spend the next few nights lying in bed trying to figure out how to stop White.
The biggest dilemma Holtz and the Pirates’ defense face is which aspect of the do-it-all quarterback’s game do you prioritize, the run or the pass.
So if your Holtz do you load up the box and force him to beat you through the air the way Pitt and South Florida did last season, or do you drift back in coverage and hope your defensive line can get to him before he can makes a play?
Heavily blitzing White is an option, but then the Pirates have to worry about him gaining huge yards on broken plays.
One strategy Holtz will employ is to have a spy on White, which would more than likely be either Pierre Bell or Quinton Cotton. However, it’s uncertain if the Pirates’ linebackers are athletic enough to keep up with speedy White.
Come Saturday, Holtz will end up employing various strategies and try mix it up on the senior QB.
If the Pirates want to walk away with another stunning upset, their best bet may not be to try and shut down one aspect of his game, but to limit both. ECU’s defense is going to give up some passing yards, and White is going to rattled off some big running plays, but if they can keep him modest in both, he can’t destroy you with one or the other.
The Pirates defense will be put to the test Saturday at 4:30 p.m., when they kickoff against the Mountaineers.