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September 4, 2008

Big East: White made plays with arm, not legs

MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Where is Pat White and what has Bill Stewart done with him?

Remove the names from West Virginia's box score against Villanova and no one resembling the Mountaineers' quarterback could be found. The starting quarterback was 25 of 33 for 208 yards and five touchdowns. No WVU player carried the ball more than nine times.

White, of course, was the starting quarterback. The senior set career-highs in completions and attempts by a wide margin and carried the ball only nine times. The difference between pass attempts and rushing attempts was the highest in his career.

"Patrick White is not just an athlete that plays quarterback," said East Carolina coach Skip Holtz, who will face White this week. "He is truly becoming a great college quarterback. They're still doing a lot of what they did in the passing game. They've added a lot of wrinkles with play-action, down-the-field passing."

That's exactly what Stewart had in mind when he tabbed Wake Forest quarterback coach Jeff Mullen as his offensive coordinator. Stewart vowed repeatedly during the offseason that White and tailback Noel Devine wouldn't be the Mountaineers' only offensive threats.

The competition gets a little tougher this week.

West Virginia faces a hot East Carolina team on the road. The Pirates are the first Conference USA team to win consecutive games over ranked opponents: ECU beat Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl and Virginia Tech in the season opener.

Getting a third consecutive victory over a ranked opponent will be a tall task. WVU won't need any reminders that East Carolina can be a dangerous opponent. While the Mountaineers routed East Carolina 48-7 last season in a game in which White was 18-for-20 in the air, the Pirates gave West Virginia fits in 2006. WVU scored 10 fourth-quarter points to come away with a 27-10 win.

"We were very fortunate to get out of there with a win very, very fortunate," said Stewart, who was an assistant at WVU that season. "Patrick didn't play his best game because he couldn't break free. (Our players) know they've got a real battle. They know when someone beats Virginia Tech, it gets our attention."

  • BEST MATCHUP
  • Cincinnati's secondary vs. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford led the nation in passing efficiency last season and showed no signs of slowing down against helpless Chattanooga last week. The Bearcats were tied for the national lead with 42 forced turnovers last season. Free safety DeAngelo Smith and cornerback Mike Mickens combined for 14 interceptions. The Bearcats added Ohio State transfer Brandon Underwood, whose addition caused Smith to move to safety. In addition, watch the coaching matchup between offensive wiz Brian Kelly and defensive guru Bob Stoops.

    BIG EAST SCHEDULE
    SATURDAY
    Connecticut at Temple, noon
    Akron at Syracuse, 3:30 p.m.
    Cincinnati at Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m.
    Tennessee Tech at Louisville, 3:30 p.m.
    West Virginia at East Carolina, 4:30 p.m.
    Buffalo at Pittsburgh, 6 p.m.
    South Florida at UCF, 7 p.m.

  • PLAYER TO WATCH
  • Pitt QB Bill Stull. So much for the return of Stull and WR Derek Kinder reviving Pitt's offense. Stull was 29 of 51 for 264 yards in last week's loss to Bowling Green. That's only 5.2 yards per attempt, and the dink-and-dunk passing scheme did nothing to keep Bowling Green's defense honest. The Falcons ganged up on the line and shut out Pitt in the second half. The Panthers will have to show some downfield potential against Buffalo.

  • WHO'S HOT
  • In his first game since re-claiming the starting job, Cincinnati quarterback Dustin Grutza was 21 of 28 for 296 yards and three touchdowns. Without tailback Andre Dixon in the lineup, Connecticut tailback Donald Brown had 146 yards and four touchdowns against Hofstra. A bright spot for Syracuse: Rob Long averaged 47.1 yards on seven punts against Northwestern. Louisville's defense allowed only 63 rushing yards to Kentucky, its lowest total since 2000. It was the first game for new coordinator Ron English.

  • WHO'S NOT
  • The Big East was 0-4 against Division I-A programs in the first week of the season. Three of those losses (Pitt, Louisville and Kentucky) were at home. Pitt rushed for only 14 yards in the second half against Bowling Green. Louisville, Syracuse, Pitt and Rutgers were outscored by a combined 75-16 in the second half last week. UConn meets Temple this week. The Huskies are one of 11 Division I-A teams that has a losing record (3-7) against Temple. UConn has won the past two. Connecticut quarterback Tyler Lorenzen threw a career-high three interceptions against Hofstra.

  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
  • "I hope they liked what happened because we weren't trying to run the score up on them. We're that much better than them." USF QB Matt Grothe when asked if the Bulls tried to run up the score in last season's 64-12 win over UCF. The teams play Saturday in Orlando.

    "This is a huge measuring stick for our program and our football team relative to where we stand in our progression. We can't go to Norman, Okla., and lay an egg." Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly

    "For Dave, this isn't really a job, this is a passion. He's dedicated to building a winning program here and he has all of our support as he works at that." Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson giving coach Dave Wannstedt a vote of confidence in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

    "We've got a lot of things to fix on the offensive side on the football." Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe after his team's 27-2 loss to Kentucky

  • ETC.
  • West Virginia linebacker Reed Williams (shoulder) is questionable for East Carolina. Cincinnati defensive tackle Terrill Byrd (suspension) will return against Oklahoma. Bearcats offensive tackle Khalil El-Amin (illness) is questionable. USF and UCF will meet for the last time in the foreseeable future. Their contract is over after this season. USF leads 3-0 in the series. UConn tailback Andre Dixon (ankle) is expected to return against Temple after missing the Hofstra game. Brandon Yingling will kick field goals and extra points for Cincinnati this week. Jake Rogers, who missed two extra points against Eastern Kentucky, will continue to handle kickoffs. Connecticut starting wide receiver Brad Kanuch (hamstring) missed the opener against Hofstra and is questionable for Temple. Pitt linebacker Adam Gunn is day-to-day after suffering a concussion against Bowling Green. Linebacker Shane Murray (knee) could also miss the game. Wannstedt said two freshmen wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin and offensive tackle Lucas Nix need to play more.

    MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

    David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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