PITTSBURGH (AP) - Since Pat White and Steve Slaton arrived at West Virginia, the Backyard Brawl rivalry against Pitt has become a two-punch knockout.
Slaton's and White's two-game numbers against Pitt appear to have been accumulated on some unrealistic video game: White, 440 yards rushing (220 in each game), four touchdown runs, three touchdown passes; Slaton, 394 yards, four touchdown runs, three touchdown catches.
And Pittsburgh (4-7, 2-4 Big East), one loss way from its worst season in nine years, must stop these two to prevent No. 2 West Virginia (10-1, 5-1) from advancing to the national championship game?
``Containing, controlling and stopping hasn't even been brought up this week,'' defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said.
Translation: Shutting down both White and Slaton might be too much to ask, especially considering Pitt's previous struggles against spread or option-type offenses. Navy ran for 331 yards and totaled 497 yards in a 48-45 upset at Heinz Field on Oct. 10; South Florida hung up 38 points in the second half of last week's 48-37 win at Pitt.
Pitt has yet another worry, too; freshman Noel Devine ran for 118 yards against Connecticut during West Virginia's 66-21 rout last week.
The Panthers' only real chance of pulling off an upset that would be as monumental as any in the 100-game series would appear to be catching a few breaks, such as West Virginia turning the ball over repeatedly, and shaking freshman star LeSean McCoy loose for some long runs.
West Virginia's only loss, 21-13 to South Florida, resulted from six turnovers.
``I'd like to force them to go three-and-out as many times as I can,'' Rhoads said. ``The killer is big-play touchdowns, and that's what you've got to eliminate against West Virginia.''
Or exactly what Pitt didn't do last season, when West Virginia scored on plays of 67, 64 and 55 yards while winning 45-27 at Heinz Field.
This season, White has run for 1,220 yards and 14 touchdowns and thrown for 1,498 yards and 12 scores; Slaton has 1,086 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns.
``Pat's going to be tough to stop, and I've been dreaming about getting a shot at both him and Slaton,'' defensive lineman Joe Clermond said. ``They're two good backs and they're going to be hard to stop. But it's fun to get out there and give it a shot.''
McCoy's progress has been the one major positive of Pitt's season, as the former Pennsylvania all-stater has run for 1,180 yards - 82 short of the Big East freshman record - and 14 touchdowns. Few outside the Big East may realize he has outrushed Slaton by nearly 100 yards.
Nobody at Pitt is comparing McCoy to Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett, at least not until McCoy gains another 5,000 yards or so, but McCoy last week broke Dorsett's school freshman record of 13 TD runs.
Still, coach Dave Wannstedt's biggest worry - besides Slaton and White - might be how McCoy and quarterback Pat Bostick handle so big a stage so early in their careers. Bostick was in high school last season, McCoy was in prep school, and this game represents a major jump in quality of opponent and visibility.
Nobody has to tell Wannstedt that Pitt rooters are becoming unhappy with the recent lack of competitiveness in the Backyard Brawl, with West Virginia scoring 45 points in each of the last two games. The Mountaineers won 45-13 in Morgantown in 2005.
Despite the two recent routs, Wannstedt was irked this week when former West Virginia coach Don Nehlen suggested the Panthers can't recruit against the Mountaineers like they once could.
``I played in this game before Don Nehlen got there, and it was a rivalry then,'' Wannstedt said. ``And that's all I'll say. ... We have competed with them in recruiting and we will continue to do that. They've got it going right now, but we know where we've got to go.''
Saturday, the Panthers must go to Morgantown, and Wannstedt knows what a challenge that will be. Pitt must win to avoid having its worst season since going 2-9 in 1998.
``We're going to go down there and play loose,'' Wannstedt said. ``We're going to have fun with this thing and we're going to enjoy this night.''

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