White not getting caught up in the hype

Published 8:55 pm Thursday, September 4, 2008

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
Pat White isn’t letting himself get caught up in all the Heisman Trophy talk. He isn’t thinking about the prospects of playing in the NFL either. Heck, not even the realm of lifting a national championship trophy has crossed the Mountaineers’ quarterbacks mind.
No, White is focused on winning.
And now, all his attention has been turned towards leading No. 8 West Virginia past East Carolina in Greenville on Saturday.
“My focus is on beating East Carolina,” White said. “I take it one game at a time. If we stay focused on our next opponent and worry about winning the next game, all that other stuff will work itself out.”
After leading the Mountaineers with 1,335 yards on the ground, and passing for 1,724 yards with 28 total touchdowns, White has graced magazine covers across the nation, touting the senior QB as one 2008’s Heisman hopefuls. But White doesn’t let the national spotlight bother him.
“I don’t look too much into that sort of stuff,” White said. “As a quarterback, the only thing that matters is wins and losses. That’s all I care about.”
Well, White certainly has aced that category. Since taking over the WVU starting quarterback position in 2005, White has led the Mountaineers to a 27-4 record, including wins in three straight bowl games, two of which were BCS bowl titles. With a New Year’s Day bowl victory this season, White can become the first quarterback in NCAA history to lead his team to four consecutive bowl wins in a bowl game played on or after Jan. 1.
“He’s our leader,” linebacker Mortty Ivy said. “Pat’s a special player. There’s nobody in the country who is more dangerous than Pat White.”
White is considered the most dynamic player in all of college football with his versatility both throw the ball and run the ball. Over the last seven games, White has averaged 272 yards of total offense.
East Carolina coach Skip Holtz learned last season how dangerous White can be. West Virginia’s quarterback completed a school record 90 percent of his passes for 181 yards against the Pirates in 2007, while throwing for a pair of touchdowns and rushing for two scores.
“He's can do both (running and passing) extremely well. We got a taste of it a year ago in our game,” Holtz said. “The thing that I think makes him so great is not just that he has such talent running and throwing the ball. But what makes him so great is the competitive spirit inside of him and how tough he is. He's one of the very few quarterbacks who can be a 1,000 (rushing yards)-1,000 (passing yards) type of guy.”
Last week against Villanova, White rushed for 63 yards to move past former Ohio University star Kareem Wilson to become the sixth most-prolific rushing QB in NCAA history with 3,569 yards. He needs 731 yards to become the greatest rushing quarterback in NCAA history, a record currently held by former Missouri gunslinger Brad Smith.
“He’s the best quarterback I’ve ever seen,” Ivy said. “He can do it all. With his ability to run, he’s a nightmare for opposing defenses.”
This season, White will get a chance to showcase his skills as a passer a lot more. New coach Bill Stewart has vowed to air it out more this season.
In the opener, the Mountaineers did just that, as White completed 25-of-33 passes for 208 yards and a career-high five touchdowns en route to leading WVU to a 48-21 victory over Villanova.
So which aspect of the game does White prefer, rushing or passing?
“I like both,” White said. “I just want to put points on the board. If that means running, then fine. If that means throwing the ball more, that’s okay too.
“I think the new (air-it-out) approach is great,” White said. “Now teams can’t focus on just the quarterback, running back and fullback. Defenses have to pay attention to all our athletes and that opens up the field. I know the wide receivers love the new offense. They are all walking back to the huddle with smiles on their faces. I think we can be very successful with the new offense and win a lot of football games. Winning is the only goal I have this season.”
WVU defense prefers being overshadowed
By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
The entire nation’s attention was turned towards West Virginia’s high-octane offense in 2007, as the Mountaineers rushed for nearly 300 yards a contest behind Heisman Trophy candidates Pat White and Steve Slaton.
Meanwhile, the Mountaineers defense flew under the radar.
As the offense raked in media attention from coast-to-coast, the Mountaineers’ overshadowed defense quietly had a stellar season en route to becoming college football’s No. 7 ranked unit it total defense, allowing just 301.7 yards per game. They also finished eighth in the country in scoring defense after allowing 18.2 points per game.
All the focus on WVU’s offense doesn’t bother the defense. In fact, according to linebacker Mortty Ivy, they actually prefer having the offense in the limelight.
“We like being overlooked,” Ivy said. “We don’t want all that attention. We like being the underdog, that way we can sneak up on people.”
The Mountaineers won’t be sneaking up on teams for long. While the WVU offense has been the darlings of the national media, coaches and players throughout college football have become aware of West Virginia’s potent defense.
“They’ve got a good defense and they get after the ball,” wide receiver T.J. Lee said. “We can’t make the mistakes we made against Virginia Tech last week and expect to beat them. If you make mistakes against West Virginia, they’re going to make you pay.”
West Virginia returns just four starters on the defensive side of the football, but the expectations in Morgantown are as high as ever.
“We think we’re going to do very well this season,” Ivy said. “We have got a lot of experience in our front seven, and we believe that we can be just as good as we were last season.”
Leading the Mountaineers’ defensive charge are Ivy and fellow linebacker Reed Williams. The duo combined for 196 tackles and 16.5 tackles-for-losses in 2007.
Along the defensive line, West Virginia returns Scooter Berry, who as a freshman recorded 27 tackles and 4.5 tackles-for-a-loss in 10 starts. The only other returner is safety Quintin Andrews who recorded 51 tackles and an interception in 2007.
"West Virginia’s defense is solid,” ECU coach Skip Holtz said. “They return their defensive end and they have two linebackers who are very physical and active. They are much more aggressive this year and they are forcing the issue more. They’re not just sitting back and playing defense."
While they are young on defense, the Mountaineers still believe they’ll be able to shut down their opponents in 2008.
“We are real young, especially in our secondary,” Ivy said. “But with a few guys coming back in our front seven, we feel like we can take the pressure off our secondary.
“Our goal is to shut out every one we play,” Ivy added. “We think we’ve got a good defense. It doesn’t matter who the other team puts on the field, if we do what we’re capable of doing, and do the things that we’re suppose to, we shouldn’t have a problem beating anyone.”