The rushing numbers quarterback Pat White has posted during his three-year career at West Virginia put most college running backs to shame.
His totals: 3,356 yards on 473 carries (a 7.1-yards per carry average) and 38 touchdowns.
Add on 4,031 passing yards, a 64.7 percent completion percentage and 33 touchdowns through the air and it’s easy to see why White’s compliment total these days is approaching that of his total offense.
When asked how many problems White presents, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said, “a million.” Stoops has been busy this month working on a game plan to at least contain the two-time Big East offensive player of the year in the Fiesta Bowl.
“He’s just a great athlete with the football, with the ability to make people miss him or outrun people.”
“He’s for real,” said West Virginia interim coach Bill Stewart, who compared White’s speed to that of a stock car. “He’s been blessed with some great (physical) gifts.”
But it’s not just the numbers following White’s name on the stat sheet that are impressive. It’s also how he picks them up.
White has 14 runs of 40 or more yards in his career, and many of those have come in spectacular fashion.
“I think he’s one of the most fantastic players in college football, if not the most,” Mountaineers linebacker Marc Magro said. “When you watch him run, just some of the things he does, you can see like six guys come together (around him) and miss him. It’s great to watch. It’s truly something special. ... It is hard to think where this team would be without him.”
Actually, the Mountaineers have a pretty good idea. White missed parts of two games this season, and West Virginia lost both.
The first was Sept. 28, on the road against then-No. 18 South Florida. White went out late in the second quarter after taking a helmet to his right thigh and the No. 5 Mountaineers fell 21-13.
While that defeat also could be chalked up to six turnovers and a quality opponent, West Virginia’s next loss — 13-9 to unranked Pittsburgh on Dec. 1 — was simply baffling.
The No. 2 Mountaineers were at home, 28 1/2-point favorites and playing for a spot in the BCS championship game. Even without White, West Virginia possessed superior talent (a conference-high 10 players on the All-Big East team and four picked for various All-America teams), but it clearly wasn’t the same team.
White was forced to the sideline in the second quarter again, this time with a dislocated thumb. His absence didn’t have an immediate effect, as backup QB Jarrett Brown scored shortly thereafter to give West Virginia a 7-0 advantage. However, the offense stalled after that.
“In our offense, you need a lot of experience so you can read the defense, and Pat is an experienced man,” kicker Pat McAfee said. “He knows what to do, and he runs our offense perfectly. Any time he gets hurt or a head man goes down, it’s kind of tough.”
White returned in the fourth quarter, but was clearly struggling with the injury and couldn’t spark a comeback.
“I just wanted to help the team as much as I can,” White told reporters afterward. “It was killing me sitting on the sidelines.”
White has been declared good to go for the Fiesta Bowl by Stewart, and the Mountaineers know they will need him to counter the favored Sooners.
“They’re probably the most explosive team we’ve played,” defensive lineman Keilen Dykes said.
Whether they’re explosive enough to overcome White, though, remains to be seen.