Gator Bowl: West Virginia 38, Georgia Tech 35
Published 12:00 am Monday, January 1, 2007
By Travis Reed
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Patrick White was bruised and determined with the Gator Bowl hanging in the balance.
The quarterback played through ankle, hand and neck injuries to lead West Virginia back from an 18-point deficit in the second half for a 38-35 win over Georgia Tech on Monday.
“He kind of willed us to victory,” Mountaineers coach Rich Rodriguez said.
White was 9-of-15 for 131 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 22 times for 145 yards and a score. He handled the bulk of the carries with tailback Steve Slaton, the country’s third-leading rusher at 144 yards a game, limited with a badly bruised left thigh. Slaton’s status was uncertain before kickoff, and the sophomore managed just 11 yards on three carries — all in the first half. Owen Schmitt also ran 13 times for 109 yards and two TDs.
“I was hurting a lot, but I had to block it out. I had to play ball,” White said. “It makes me want to play harder — when I’m injured I get a little angry.”
The teams set a Gator Bowl record for scoring, breaking the previous mark set in Tennessee’s 45-23 win over Viginia Tech in 1994, and records for total yardage (928), most plays (121) and most first downs (40).
Georgia Tech (9-5) tried a 54-yard field goal on fourth-and-9 with 5 minutes left that could have tied the score, but Travis Bell’s kick fell well short. West Virginia then ran out the clock.
It was an astonishing turnaround from the first half, in which Georgia Tech’s sophomore quarterback Taylor Bennett and All-America wideout Calvin Johnson picked apart West Virginia’s secondary.
It was Georgia Tech’s third loss in a row by three points, including the regular season closer at Georgia and the ACC championship against Wake Forest.
“That’s been our story, this season with all thee losses at the end,” Yellow Jackets linebacker KaMichael Hall said. “You’ve got to learn how to finish.”
The Mountaineers (11-2) also couldn’t stop Tashard Choice, who ran 27 times for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson finished with 186 yards receiving and two touchdowns.