Pat White finished his career just like he started itstanding atop the winners podium hoisting another bowl trophy over his head.
White passed for 332 yards and three touchdowns to lead West Virginia to a 31-30, come-from-behind victory over North Carolina in the 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl at Bank America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
“He’s the greatest winner to ever wear the old Gold and Blue,”said West Virginia coach Bill Stewart.”The whole key to the game was our number five managing the game.”
White, the NCAA s all-time leading rusher for quarterbacks with 4,480 yards, became the first quarterback in NCAA history to win four bowl games as a starter. White engineered bowl victories over Georgia in the 2006 Nokia Sugar Bowl, against Georgia Tech in the 2007 Toyota Gator Bowl, over Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and now over North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
The senior was named game MVP , the third time in his career he was earned that honor.
Today, West Virginia overcame first-half trickery from North Carolina and later needed an interception from sophomore linebacker Pat Lazear at the North Carolina 45 to finally put away the Tar Heels.
Trailing 30-24 with 8:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, White went to the air, completing a 40-yard first-down pass to Jock Sanders to the North Carolina 29. Two plays later, White fired a 20-yard touchdown pass to Alric Arnetthis second TD catch of the game.
Alrics first touchdown catch was a pretty, 44-yard one-handed grab to put the Mountaineers ahead, 14-7.
White also completed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Bradley Starks in the first quarter after Noel Devine began the game with an 18-yard TD run on West Virginias opening drive.
Heading into the game West Virginia had the 65th rated offense in the country while North Carolinas offense was rated 95th. Naturally, by the end of the first quarter the two teams had 35 points, 387 total yards and both quarterbacks were a combined 13 of 13 for 271 yards and four touchdowns.
Trailing 23-21 following a questionable safety call on Noel Devine and a Yates touchdown pass, WVU let another scoring opportunity slip by at the end of the first half after using 15 plays to drive all the way to the Tar Heel nine with 59 seconds left. On third and eight, White tried a pass into the end zone that was intercepted by Deunta Williamsthe 20th pick of the year by the North Carolina defense.
North Carolina, taking advantage of a WVU secondary without starters Brandon Hogan and Sidney Glover, used reverses, and reverse passes to put 21 first-quarter points on the board as the Mountaineers had a miserable time trying to stop North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks.
Nicks was able to get behind Ellis Lankster to haul in a 73-yard touchdown that Lankster misjudged and tipped the ball into Nicksarms.
Nicks also caught a 66-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Cooter Arnold on a reverse pass, and later in the second quarter pulled in a pretty 25-yard touchdown pass from Yates on a post-corner route that faked Lankster to the ground.
Nicks finished the game with a career-high 217 yards receiving on eight receptions, including one amazing first down catch when he pinned the ball on his hip with one hand and pulled it between his legs while still running.
“Obviously I haven’t seen anything like it since I let him run right by me,”said WVU linebacker Pat Lazear.”That’s going to eat me up when I see that (on film).”
West Virginias defense made two critical second-half plays that turned the game around. The first happened with 8:40 remaining after the Mountaineers gambled and failed to get a fourth and one at the WVU 44 with North Carolina leading 30-24.
Two plays later freshman safety Robert Sands made a big hit on North Carolina running back Shaun Draughn, jarring the football loose and West Virginia recovering at the WVU 31 . That set up Whites go-ahead touchdown pass.
The Mountaineersother big defensive stop came with 1:53 left in the game when sophomore linebacker Pat Lazear stepped in front of a T.J. Yates pass at the North Carolina 45 and returned the football to the 32.
West Virginia, which couldnt run out the clock on its previous possession, was able to take a knee three times because the Tar Heels had used all of their timeouts.
“You all in North Carolina know what type of football team we just beat,”said Stewart.”God help the ACC the next few years. I ain’t playing them. I told (Athletic Director) Dick Baddour,’Help me get some ACC games but I ain’t playing you.’No way. These guys are good.”
Mountaineer fans caught a glimpse of the wide-open offense Jeff Mullen has been trying to implement since the beginning of the year. Seven different players caught at least two passes including a season-high seven receptions from Alric Arnett.
Dorrell Jalloh caught five passes for 36 yards, Jock Sanders caught four passes for 70 yards, Bradley Starks had four receptions for 61 yards and tight end Tyler Urban caught a pair of balls for 43 yards.
“When you load the box on West Virginia the days are over of just hammering it up in there and getting beat up,”Stewart said.”Let him win it with his arm.”
Noel Devine led the Mountaineers for a team-hest 61 yards on 13 carries while White had 21 carries for 55 yards. West Virginia ran just enough (123 yards on 42 carries) to keep North Carolina honest. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, managed only 93 yards on the ground against a West Virginia defense ranked 47th against the run.
Yates finished the game 15 of 25 for 209 yards.
White set career highs in passing yards (332) and completions (26) and moved into second place at WVU in career passing yards with 6,049 behind school-record holder Marc Bulger. White is also the Big East and WVU career total offensive leader with 10,529 yards.
“We’ve been successful in bowl games since I’ve been under center,”said White.”We’ve had a lot of great players come through here to help out. We’ve had great coaching staffs. At the end of the year we definitely wanted to finish strong.”
Stewart is the first coach in school history to win his first two bowl games and he joins Dudley DeGroot as the only first-year coaches at WVU to win nine games.
West Virginias senior class finishes as the top winning class in school history with a 42-9 record.
“We talked before this week started about how physically gifted West Virginia was,”said North Carolina coach Butch Davis.”Pat White has been a Heisman Trophy candidate for the last two seasons. He’s a very talented and very gifted young man and they played very well.”
This is the 10th straight bowl dating back to 1997 that the Mountaineer defense has given up at least 28 points. West Virginia is 5-5 in those games including winning four straight.
The Mountaineers finish the year winning eight of their last 10 games after starting the season 1-2.