|Mountaineers' White has plenty to prove against Sooners in Fiesta Bowl|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 30 December 2007 11:40|
He's tired of talking about how the Mountaineers blew a shot at the national championship. He's tired of being asked about former coach Rich Rodriguez, who bolted for Michigan two weeks after the regular-season finale.
``Why are we talking negative?'' White asked reporters during interviews Sunday. ``Why are we doing all these negative questions?''
White would rather look on the bright side as the 11th-ranked Mountaineers prepare to face No. 3 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on Wednesday. It's not that easy to do, although the sun has been shining dutifully on the Mountaineers since they arrived in the desert last week.
The Mountaineers have faced plenty of adversity in the last month, starting with the crushing 13-9 home loss to arch rival Pitt on Dec. 1 - a result that cost West Virginia a trip to New Orleans for the Bowl Championship Series title game.
Throw in Rodriguez's messy departure - the university's Board of Governors has sued him to collect a $4 million buyout of his contract with the school - and it adds up to a messy picture for West Virginia.
But that's not what White sees. The junior from Daphne, Ala., sees a team playing in its fifth straight January bowl game, and its second BCS game in three years.
``It means our team was very successful this year, and I helped us be that way,'' he said.
White's importance was underscored in the loss to Pitt. He dislocated his right (non-throwing) thumb and was sidelined for much of the game, rushing for only 41 yards on 14 carries.
Asked how long the Pitt loss lingered for him, White said, ``That was done with the day after the game.''
Now White is looking to finish a strong season on an upbeat note.
He earned his second straight Big East Offensive Player of the Year award this season by rushing for 1,185 yards and 14 touchdowns.
White ran for a touchdown against every opponent except South Florida and Pitt. It's no coincidence that the Mountaineers lost both times.
``He can beat you by himself,'' Oklahoma defensive back Nic Harris said. ``And that's one thing we can't let him do.''
West Virginia ranked 113th in passing this season, but if White has to throw, he's capable. He threw for 1,548 yards and 12 touchdowns with only four interceptions, ranking 14th in NCAA passing efficiency.
West Virginia interim coach Bill Stewart has hinted that the Mountaineers might go to the air more often against the Sooners. White isn't so sure. Asked about West Virginia's strategy against OU, White shrugged and said, ``Try to outrun them.''
That might not be as easy as it sounds. The Sooners rank eighth nationally in rush defense.
But Oklahoma has encountered few players as shifty as White. This week in practice, freshman wide receiver Ryan Broyles has been a stand-in for White on the Sooners' scout team.
The Mountaineers shook their heads at the thought of someone trying to mimic White's elusiveness in the open field.
``It's like playing a video game with Pat,'' West Virginia nose tackle Keilen Dykes said. ``He's really loose.''
White has been particularly loose at practices at Scottsdale Community College, flapping his arms and jawing at teammates.
Some outsiders have wondered if the Mountaineers will be motivated after all they've been through this month. White has taken it on himself to make sure they are.
``Pat had this crowd jumping through hoops,'' Stewart said after practice one day last week. ``Pat White, along with some other upperclassmen, has done a tremendous job keeping these young people focused.''