White goes after Villanova, Bulger

By Darrell Laurant  |   Thursday, August 28, 2008  |  Comments( 1 )

West Virginia Mountaineers
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Sure, Division 1-AA Villanova at No. 8 West Virginia on Saturday sounds like a gross mismatch, but what you may not realize is that the Wildcats beat the Mountaineers the last time they played.

Unfortunately for the visitors, that was 31 years ago -- long before West Virginia had Pat White at quarterback.

True, the 2008 Wildcats have experience on offense, defense and the sidelines -- 17 starters return, and Andy Talley has coached the team for 24 years. What the Colonial Athletic Association squad doesn't have is nearly enough speed to handle a lethal spread offense that will fire White and sophomore running back Noel Devine (8.6 yards a carry as a freshman) at them repeatedly.

White enters the season just 115 yards shy of the school's total offense record held by Marc Bulger, currently a star in the NFL. His 2007 output had a neat symmetry to it -- 14 running touchdowns, 14 touchdown passes.

But he is, after all, a quarterback -- and a small one at that. What a lot of people forget about Pitt's upset victory in last season's Backyard Brawl is that White was knocked out of that game with an injury, and his style continues to offer opposing teams a lot of opportunity to inflict pain.

With those things in mind, considerable emphasis has been placed improving the Alabama senior's throwing ability. An excellent passer to begin with, White has only gotten better. And with perhaps the best offensive line in the Big East parked in front of him, look for him to use the Wildcats as a practice range for his missiles.

Meanwhile, everybody knows about Devine after he ran wild against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl last January, but 2008 could prove the unveiling year for slot back Jock Sanders, another jet-propelled munchkin who craves the ball in the open field.

The bulky but athletic Mountaineer forward wall has Villanova's defensive line badly outweighed, and new coach Bill Stewart appears to have plugged all the holes in his defense. The best news is that Reed Williams, the team's leading tackler in 2007, appears to have recovered from shoulder surgery and tops the depth chart at middle linebacker.

"He's the Reed of old," Stewart said earlier this week.

Two newcomers to watch will be true freshmen Tyler Urban (a starter at tight end) and Mark Rodgers, the primary backup to Devine at tailback.

Word is, Rodgers is very fast.

Why isn't that surprising?

The game is set for 3:30 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown.

Realfootball365.com prediction: West Virginia 52, Villanova 7.
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