West Virginia’s Pat White has been one of the most durable quarterbacks in the nation. Cincinnati, meanwhile, is just hoping to get through a game with one player at that position.
After White helped them hold on to first place in the Big East, the 20th-ranked Mountaineers look to hold off another conference contender when they face a banged-up Bearcats team Saturday night.
White ran for two touchdowns and threw for another to help West Virginia (6-2, 3-0) beat Connecticut 35-13 last Saturday to remain alone atop the Big East.
The Mountaineers have a half-game lead over Cincinnati (6-2, 2-1) and No. 25 Pittsburgh, which hosts Louisville on Saturday.
White achieved several milestones last week as West Virginia won its fifth straight.
The senior had 109 yards rushing, including touchdown runs of 24 and 36 yards, to move past the 4,000-yard mark for his career. He also completed 11 of 18 passes for 121 yards to surpass 5,000 yards in the air.
Combining passing and rushing scores, White has produced 91 touchdowns, five behind former Syracuse star Donovan McNabb’s Big East record.
“He’s the greatest winner in college football today,” Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart said of White.
White leads a West Virginia offense that tends to dominate late in games. The Mountaineers scored the final 28 points against the Huskies, one week after scoring the last 31 points in a 34-17 win over Auburn.
“I guess it takes us a minute to adjust,” White said. “But at the same time, I think if we’re not executing, we’re not putting points on the board.”
He’s also one of the most durable quarterbacks in the nation, having missed one game in four years - a 41-39 triple-overtime win over Rutgers on Dec. 2, 2006, when he had a sore ankle.
The Bearcats, meanwhile, are in desperate need of some stability at quarterback, where no one can seem to stay healthy.
Junior Tony Pike has been back for two games after breaking his non-passing arm, which is now being held together by a plate and six screws. He’s now the starter after taking over for Dustin Grutza, who broke his right leg in the second game of the season. While Pike was out, redshirt freshman Chazz Anderson - who’s been bothered by a sprained knee - was forced to start two games.
Despite playing with a soft cast protecting his surgically repaired left forearm, Pike had one of his finest efforts in Cincinnati’s last game, throwing a pair of touchdown passes in a 24-10 victory over then-No. 24 South Florida on Oct. 30. Facing one of the conference’s toughest defenses, Pike went 20-for-28 for 281 yards and two touchdowns while leading the Bearcats’ no-huddle, spread offense.
“He sees the whole field,” said junior wideout Mardy Gilyard, who caught his seventh touchdown pass of the season. “He does a good job of getting the offense going. When he’s in there, everything is fluid.”
The Bearcats’ defense bounced back impressively from a 40-16 loss to Connecticut a week earlier, holding the opponent to 15 points or fewer for the fourth time in five games.
Cincinnati intercepted three passes. Senior defensive back Mike Mickens had his 13th career pick, setting a new school record.
Mickens intercepted a pass in last season’s matchup with West Virginia, but then-No. 21 Cincinnati was upset 28-23 on Nov. 17. White ran for 155 yards and two TDs as the Mountaineers racked up 295 total yards on the ground.
West Virginia has won three straight against Cincinnati and leads the all-time series 14-1-1.