Stewart, WVU whip Oklahoma 48-28

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 3, 2008

Associated Press

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Rich who?

The West Virginia Mountaineers didn’t need coach Rich Rodriguez. They had Pat White, and their elusive quarterback led them to a surprising 48-28 romp over No. 3 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on Wednesday night.

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White ran for 150 yards and threw for 176 and two touchdowns for the 11th-ranked Mountaineers, who rushed for 349 yards, most allowed by Oklahoma in a bowl game.

Since arriving in the desert last week, the Mountaineers (11-2) said they had bonded behind interim coach Bill Stewart, who took over when Rodriguez bolted for Michigan in mid-December. And they vowed to rebound from a 13-9 loss to Pitt that knocked them out of the Bowl Championship Series title game.

The Mountaineers were right on both counts, turning in an emotional effort and overcoming the loss of star tailback Steve Slaton to a first-quarter leg injury. Noel Devine replaced Slaton and ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns — a 17-yarder and a 65-yarder that clinched the game in the fourth quarter.

The Mountaineers became the first of six teams to win under an interim coach in this bowl season. They improved to 2-0 in the Bowl Championship Series.

‘‘It’s a great night to be a Mountaineer,’’ Stewart said as he accepted the Fiesta Bowl trophy as thousands of West Virginia fans celebrated in the grandstand.

Stewart said his players ‘‘never, ever quit believing.’’

Oklahoma (11-3) endured another disappointment on the same field where the Sooners lost a classic Fiesta Bowl to Boise State one year ago. The Sooners have dropped four straight BCS games.

The Sooners had no answer for White, whose 79-yard touchdown pass to Tito Gonzales in the fourth quarter was the longest in Mountaineers bowl history.

The Mountaineers’ fourth-rated defense limited the potent Sooners to well below their scoring average of 43.4 points per game, third in the nation.

The Mountaineers harassed Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, sacking the nation’s top-rated passer three times and intercepting him in the end zone. Bradford completed 21 of 33 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns.

The Sooners rallied from an 18-point deficit against Boise State last January.

This time, they trailed 20-6 at halftime. But they cut it to 20-15 on Chris Brown’s 1-yard run midway through the third quarter.

Then Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops made two curious calls. First, he decided to go for two points. But Bradford’s pass fell incomplete.

Then Stoops ordered an onside kick. The ball didn’t go 10 yards, and West Virginia took over on OU’s 39.

The Mountaineers needed six plays to capitalize, scoring on Devine’s 17-yard run.

West Virginia made it 34-15 on Darius Reynaud’s 30-yard run with 20 seconds to go in the third quarter. The Mountaineers went 75 yards in three plays — 42 on an electrifying run by White, who weaved through tacklers along the left sideline.

After the Sooners scored on a 19-yard pass from Bradford to Quentin Chaney, White found Gonzales down the middle for a 79-yard TD that made it 41-21.

After one quarter, the Sooners had 1 yard on 12 plays. At halftime they had as many penalties (six) as first downs.

The Mountaineers took command in the second quarter.

Fullback Owen Schmitt broke a career-long 57-yard touchdown run to put the Mountaineers ahead 13-3 midway through the quarter. The 260-pound Schmitt shrugged off a tackle by 197-pound safety Darien Williams, wheeled around the end and sprinted down the right sideline for the score.

Schmitt saves some of his best runs for bowl games. He also broke runs of 52 yards in the 2007 Gator Bowl and 54 in the 2006 Sugar.

Four minutes later, West Virginia made it 20-6 when White froze the Sooners with a play-fake and hit a wide-open Reynaud for a 21-yard touchdown. It was Reynaud’s 12th touchdown catch this season, matching Chris Henry’s school record set in 2004.

The Mountaineers jumped ahead 3-0 on a 38-yard field goal by Pat McAfee midway through the first quarter. McAfee added a 42-yarder in the final seconds of the period to put West Virginia up 6-0.

Oklahoma’s first scoring drive covered 54 yards, and the Sooners needed a pair of 15-yard West Virginia penalties — on the same play — to set up a 37-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley.