Chuck Finder | Gameday
8:53 p.m.: In the end, Patrick White tossed a Mountaineer Field-record and lifetime-best five touchdowns, and eighth-ranked West Virginia tried to show East Carolina and the rest of college football that you can't always crowd the line of scrimmage to dare this team to throw. Sure, only Marc Bulger in 1998 with a half-dozen against Pitt has thrown for more scores in West Virginia history. But the subtext to this 48-21 triumph tonight over The Villanova That Doesn't Shoot 3-Pointers seems to be: That remodeled defense didn't exactly stymie a Division I-AA offense. Seven of the Wildcats' first 11 possessions carried into West Virginia territory. The Wildcats possessed the football an entire quarter longer than West Virginia, which in theory represents a practical way to keep that vaunted offense off the field. The Wildcats even outgained the Mountaineers by half a football field. "We missed some open-field tackles," new coach Bill Stewart said. "We just can't do that." By the way, in a precautionary move by Stewart and the medical staff, Reed Williams didn't dress (no wonder this correspondent couldn't find him), but he and his surgically repaired shoulders should be ready to play, if not start, next Saturday at East Carolina. And, after the soon-to-be-ranked Pirates' 27-22 upset of No. 17 Virginia Tech today, this West Virginia-East Carolina fray looks a whole lot more sizeable, doesn't it? "From what I heard today, we're going into a hornet's next, we're going into a Pirates den," Stewart said. "We have to improve a whole lot."
5:26 p.m. (our apologies. . . wireless problems here): Pat Lazear indeed started at middle linebacker and lasted barely a handful of plays. Anthony Leonard replaced him -- no sign of Williams, so it's doubtful he'll play -- but the Villanova offense still moved with relative ease throughout the first half. Four of its first six possessions reached into West VIrginia territory. It dominated the first half time of possession, 20 minutes, 32 seconds to West VIrginia's 9:28. It even outgained the vaunted West Virginia offense. Yet a red-zone fumble by Villanova quarterback Antwon Young was returned halfway across the field, mostly by Gateway's Mortty Ivy, to set up the first of three. . . wait for it. . . passing touchdowns to give the Mountaineers a 24-7 lead at intermission. Records that fell in the half: White has his inaugural three-touchdown-passing performance (with a half yet to play) and West Virginia's first since Brashear's Rasheed Marshall four years ago against Temple (which one press-box wag called another Division I-AA team from Philadelphia); White surpassed Bulger's career mark for total offense with almost 8,000 yards; and Plum's Pat McAfee at half's close kicked a career-long, 52-yard field goal, beating by one yard his previous best against Pitt at Heinz Field two years ago.
1:52 p.m (more than 90 minutes to kickoff).: A roster update: If sophomore Lazear doesn't start ahead of senior star Williams at middle linebacker today, he at minimum is expected to play the majority of the defensive snaps so Williams can test and then rest his surgically repaired shoulders.
A scoreboard update: The three-times-larger Panasonic big board is up and running, showing the Virginia Tech-East Carolina broadcast at this moment, and it's a dandy home-theater system. And workers did find the KA missing from the Tuesday night truck carrying the scrambled letters now spelling out "MILAN PUSKAR STADIUM" above the new scoreboard (see Aug. 26 blog entry, below). LED boards running roughly between the 10-yard lines adorn the bottom of the upper decks at Mountaineer Field now, too, much like ones found at Heinz Field or any other major stadium.
Finally, a weather update: The hazy, gray skies that appeared to threaten with rain have just given way to beams of sunshine. Radar looks clear, though. Not that it should matter much today, but the Mountaineers would prefer a dry, fast track on their ersatz grass.