WVU downs punchless Thundering Herd

Published 11:53 pm Saturday, September 27, 2008

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia enters the Big East portion of its schedule with Pat White in a familiar predicament — injured.

White threw two touchdown passes before reinjuring the thumb on his throwing hand in West Virginia’s 27-3 win over Marshall on Saturday.

White went to the sidelines after being tackled on a 5-yard run in the third quarter with West Virginia ahead 21-3. He had an ice pack wrapped on his left hand and didn’t return.

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Jarrett Brown replaced him but couldn’t get the Mountaineers into the end zone.

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said after the game that White “was fine.” Stewart disclosed that the thumb had been bruised a week earlier against Colorado.

White’s status for next Saturday’s conference home opener against Rutgers isn’t known, but if it’s left up to him, he’ll play.

“I could have gone back in if need be,” said White, whose Heisman Trophy hopes took a hit with the Mountaineers’ 1-2 start to the season. “It was still kind of weak.”

Last year, White was injured in three different games but missed significant playing time only once — a 13-9 loss in the regular-season finale to Pittsburgh. In 2006, he sat out one game with a sore ankle.

With former backfield mates Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt now in the NFL, this injury to White could prove more challenging to West Virginia with few other players capable of taking over the offense. The exception is sophomore Noel Devine, who rushed for 125 yards and a score Saturday.

West Virginia surpassed 300 yards rushing for the second straight game. Stewart interchanged White and Brown at quarterback in an effort to generate more points after the Mountaineers scored a combined 17 points in their two previous games.

Both also lined up at running back. White rushed for 61 yards and completed 17 of 21 passes for 130 yards. Brown ran for 78 yards.

“He adds another dimension to the offense,” White said of Brown. “It’s something that defenses will have to prepare for. He’s a big guy, a big body coming out of the backfield. He can do a lot of things.”

Many of West Virginia’s yards came after plays broke down.

Marshall’s Emmanuel Spann fumbled early in the second half and West Virginia recovered near midfield. Devine then ran 36 yards on a busted play to set up White’s 3-yard scoring pass to Jock Sanders for a 21-3 lead.

West Virginia (2-2) broke a two-game losing streak and improved to 8-0 all-time against its cross-state foe.

Marshall (3-2) was limited to 158 yards of offense, including 39 yards on the ground. The Thundering Herd had the ball three times inside West Virginia’s 20-yard line but couldn’t find the end zone. Darius Passmore, the nation’s leading receiver, was held under 100 yards for the first time this season.

“It was a bad day to make a bunch of mistakes,” said Marshall coach Mark Snyder. “We didn’t hit the big plays today. I said all along that it’s hard to drive the ball on this defense.”

West Virginia applied relentless pressure on freshman quarterback Mark Cann, who overthrew several receivers and went just 15-of-36 for 119 yards.

“We tried to get after him and make him move a little bit,” linebacker Reed Williams said.

The Mountaineers squandered several chances to pile on points.

Mortty Ivy intercepted Cann at midfield just before halftime. White drove the Mountaineers to the Marshall 3 but couldn’t convert on three straight pass attempts, and time ran out.

In the third quarter, West Virginia’s Doug Slavonic recovered a Cann fumble, but Brown was intercepted in the end zone by DeQuan Bembry, a Marshall freshman.

Bembry got burned in the second quarter on a pump fake by White, who threw to a wide-open Dorrell Jalloh for a 21-yard score.

Pat McAfee, whose short field-goal try in overtime last week in a 17-14 loss at Colorado hit the upright, kicked field goals of 39 and 36 yards for the Mountaineers.