for this game

White, West Virginia rout UConn to win Big East title

Nov 25, 2007 - 4:01 AM MORGANTOWN, West Virginia (Ticker) -- Pat White and West Virginia raced past Connecticut to clinch the Big East Conference title.

White rushed for a season-high 186 yards and two touchdowns Saturday as the fourth-ranked Mountaineers rolled to a stunningly easy 66-21 rout of No. 20 UConn.

West Virginia (10-1, 5-1 Big East) secured its second conference championship in the last three years and locked up a BCS bowl bid in dominant fashion, rushing for a season-high 517 yards against the Big East's No. 1 defense.

It was the Mountaineers' best single-game rushing performance since a 536-yard outing in a 37-17 victory over East Carolina on September 28, 2002.

"We have explosiveness, and that was neat to see," West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. "In the second half, we kept the gas peddle on."

"They're athletic and they've got speed," UConn coach Randy Edsall added. "They've got guys tha make plays and they are a solid team. It's an outstanding program, and Rich has done a tremendous job."

The catalyst for the Mountaineers' relentless attack was White, who recorded his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing performance and his fifth this season. The junior quarterback also kept the Huskies honest with his arm, completing 9-of-13 passes for 107 yards and a TD.

"I'm biased - I think (White) is the best football player in the country," Rodriguez said. "Pat has done it his entire career. I'm glad he's in the blue and gold."

Freshman sensation Noel Devine rushed for 118 yards and a score on just 11 carries while Steve Slaton also ran for a pair of scores for the Mountaineers, who captured their fourth Big East title under coach Rich Rodriguez and their fifth all-time.

The Mountaineers close out their regular season here next Saturday against rival Pittsburgh.

With a win over the Panthers in the "Backyard Brawl," West Virginia almost certainly would lock up a berth in the BCS title game.

"There is always another team challenging for the championship, and our guys responded to that," Rodriguez said. "We want to finish the deal next week in the big rivalry game."

Ranked third in the BCS standings entering this week, the Mountaineers figure to climb at least as high as No. 2 following top-ranked Louisiana State's triple-overtime loss to Arkansas on Friday.

West Virginia's national title aspirations appeared to be dashed after a 21-13 loss to South Florida on September 28.

But the Mountaineers have won their last six contests and have benefited from a bevy of upsets suffered by teams above them in the rankings.

"The thing I was proud of after USF was that there wasn't much talk (about us)," Rodriguez said. "But there wasn't a change in our mentality, and they never stopped playing. We're not done yet, I hope.

"I think we could chart our own destiny, but you have to run it. That is easier said than done."

West Virginia looked as if it also would have a fight on its hands in this one, as UConn (9-3, 5-2) scored on the game's opening drive.

But the Huskies' vaunted defense was completely overmatched against White, who ran for a game-tying three-yard score on the ensuing possession. The southpaw gave West Virginia the lead for good with his 14-yard scoring strike to Darius Reynaud midway through the opening quarter.

"I'm not sure if there is one better than (White)," Edsall said. "He's got my vote. He's a tremendous athlete. I told him I think he should come out (to the NFL) after this year. But I haven't seen anyone better than him."

Slaton sped to a 31-yard TD in the second quarter and White scrambled for a 24-yard score on the opening possession of the third quarter to make it 31-14.

Devine also dashed for a 25-yard score in the third, pushing the advantage to 38-14 and essentially sealing the win.

It was a disappointing end to what had been a magical regular season for the Huskies, who completed just their sixth campaign as a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A).

Donald Brown rushed for 129 yards and a TD for UConn, which went just 4-8 last season.

"These kids worked their tails off to get to this position," Edsall said. "I couldn't be more proud of our players and coaches.

"We won't let this put a damper on the season. Back in August, no one thought we'd stand where we are now."