7:30 PM ET, November 9, 2005
Nippert Stadium, CINCINNATI, OH
CINCINNATI (AP) -- A pair of tough-to-catch freshmen are keeping No. 16 West Virginia out of everybody's reach in the Big East.
Pat White ran for 111 yards Wednesday night, taking off on quarterback draws that set up Steve Slaton's four touchdowns and a 38-0 victory over Cincinnati and its one-step-slow defense.
The Mountaineers (8-1, 5-0) are in position to clinch the conference title heading into their final regular-season games against Pittsburgh and South Florida, its closest pursuer with one conference loss.
"They look like a team that can play with just about anybody," Cincinnati coach Mark Dantonio said.
Last year, West Virginia also was in position to win the title outright, but lost its last two games and then its Gator Bowl appearance against Florida State. The emphasis has been on avoiding another fade.
White, Slaton and one of the nation's toughest defense led the Mountaineers to their most lopsided victory of the season and their first shutout since 2002.
White, a redshirt freshman making his second start in place of banged up Adam Bednarik, spent the night tormenting the nation's youngest defense. He ran straight up the middle on draws, turned upfield on option fakes, and took off on passing plays.
"I was hoping I'd get loose on a couple," White said.
He picked his spots perfectly, looking nothing like an inexperienced quarterback on a first-place team.
"He's calm and composed out there," coach Rich Rodriguez said. "It's not like he's a freshman at all."
Cincinnati (4-5, 2-3) couldn't contain him or catch up with him. His runs of 17, 34 and 13 yards sparked three first-half touchdown drives.
"They've got an exciting quarterback who can take a bad play and make it a good one," Dantonio said. "He's special. And they've got a tailback that's elusive."
Slaton, a first-year freshman, finished them with runs of 4, 1 and 9 yards for a 21-0 halftime lead. Last year, the 5-foot-10, 195-pound tailback was MVP of the Philadelphia Catholic League.
"He still made a couple of mistakes, but not as many as a first-year player usually makes," Rodriguez said. "He has the right temperament for that position. He runs hard and he has a burst."
The only thing that slowed the Mountaineers' offense was a 10-minute power outage in the first quarter. Some of the light stands went out while West Virginia had the ball at midfield. Once the game resumed, West Virginia scored again.
Slaton has been West Virginia's biggest surprise this season, taking over the tailback job after Pernell Williams and Jason Colson fell out of favor. He scored six touchdowns in a triple-overtime victory over Louisville that put the Mountaineers in control of the conference.
"When I first started, I had trouble remembering the plays," Slaton said. "But I got a lot of repetitions and now it's becoming familiar."
Slaton fell hard on his hip last week during a 45-13 victory over Connecticut, suffering a bruise so painful that it hurt when he coughed. He looked fine Wednesday while scoring on two off-tackle runs and a dive over the middle of a defense that starts five freshmen.
Most of the Cincinnati fans headed for the exits when Slaton ran untouched 33 yards for another touchdown on the Mountaineers' first possession of the second half, finishing with 129 yards overall. White had a 15-yard touchdown pass, and West Virginia put in its reserves early in the fourth quarter.
West Virginia's highly ranked defense sent Cincinnati to its first shutout since 1998, a 41-0 loss to Miami of Ohio. Redshirt freshman Dustin Grutza was limited to swing passes and dump-offs to tight ends in the first half, when his longest completion went for 8 yards.
The Mountaineers forced four turnovers and prevented Cincinnati from getting closer than the West Virginia 37-yard line until the final play of the game.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... West Virginia took a 21-0 lead with just over 7 minutes to go in the first half. Cincinnati had run 23 plays for 54 yards, while the Mountaineers had already racked up 250 yards on 28 plays, including touchdown runs of 1, 4 and 9 yards. The pace of the game had been set.
Gameball goes to... West Virginia's defense. While Mountaineer freshmen Pat White and Steve Slaton lit up the scoreboard on the offensive side of the ball, it was West Virginia's defense that won this game, holding Cincinnati scoreless for the first time since 1998. It was the Moutaineers' first shutout since 2002.
Stat of the game... ... 297-62. That was the discrepancy in rushing yards. West Virginia ran the ball 50 times at a clip of nearly six yards per carry. Cincinnati averaged less than two on its 33 rushes.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-14||4-12|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||0-0|
|TD||10:31||STEVE SLATON 4 YD RUN (PAT MCAFEE KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 81 yards.
|TD||12:55||STEVE SLATON 1 YD RUN (PAT MCAFEE KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 89 yards.
|TD||7:19||STEVE SLATON 9 YD RUN (PAT MCAFEE KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 59 yards.
|TD||10:22||STEVE SLATON 33 YD RUN (PAT MCAFEE KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 52 yards.
|FG||7:04||PAT MCAFEE 28 YD FG|
Drive info: 6 plays, 23 yards.
|TD||4:14||DARIUS REYNAUD 15 YD PASS FROM PAT WHITE (PAT MCAFEE KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 12 yards.