CHARLOTTE, N.C. – During four record-breaking seasons at West Virginia, Pat White made comeback victories and bowl wins routine.
His grand finale, though, was unique. The most prolific running quarterback in college football history had the best passing game of his career, cementing his status as one of the best players in school history and perhaps showing he can take his game to the NFL, too.
White threw for 332 yards in his final college game, including the game-winning 20-yard touchdown pass to Alric Arnett midway through the fourth quarter in West Virginia’s 31-30 victory over North Carolina on Saturday in the Meineke Bowl.
The senior was voted MVP of a bowl for the third straight year and finished 4-0 in postseason games, helping West Virginia (9-4) end a disappointing season on a positive note.
“I’m sitting by the greatest winner in college football today,” West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said of White. “He’s the greatest to ever wear the old gold and blue. It’s a fitting tribute that this man’s the MVP.”
It took a great performance to beat out Hakeem Nicks, who caught eight passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns for the Tar Heels (8-5). But T.J. Yates’ otherwise strong game was marred when he was intercepted by Pat Lazear with less than 2 minutes left, ending coach Butch Davis’ hopes of a bowl win to complete his turnaround season at North Carolina.
“It’s disappointing to lose this game, but I’m very proud of this football team and the strides we’ve made,” said Davis, whose team was 4-8 last year and playing in its first bowl since 2004.
As Davis spoke, Stewart was leading the crowd in cheers in a sweet ending to a tumultuous season for the much-maligned replacement for Rich Rodriguez.
Entering the season as prohibitive favorites to win the Big East, the Mountaineers started 1-2. They recovered to win five straight, only to go 2-2 over their final four games to end their BCS bowl hopes. But White made sure they went out a winner.
“Half those people out there in the old gold and blue, they all love him,” Stewart said, looking at White. “But half of them would like to hang me. … But I’m not mad. They have such a passion in West Virginia. All they want us to do is be the best.”
North Carolina routinely put eight men on the line of scrimmage to stop the NCAA’s all-time leading rushing quarterback. White was held to 55 yards rushing, finishing with 4,480 in his career.
Facing questions about whether he can be an NFL quarterback, White made a strong case. He completed 26 of 32 passes with three touchdowns, one interception, and a clutch fourth-quarter drive.
After West Virginia’s J.T. Thomas recovered Shaun Draughn’s fumble at the WV 30, White threw a 41-yard pass over the middle to Jock Sanders, picked up 9 yards on a running play and then rifled a pass between two defenders to Arnett for the go-ahead touchdown with 7:14 left.