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White leads West Virginia to Bowl win

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
I should have known better than to pick against Pat White.

Just when you think you've seen everything from the West Virginia quarterback in his marvelous career, White gives you something new in his final collegiate game. White threw for a career-high 332 yards and three touchdowns as the Mountaineers nipped North Carolina, 31-30, in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

White's previous best passing day had been 222 yards against Louisville in 2006. But we've come to expect nothing short of greatness from the first quarterback in NCAA history to go 4-0 in bowl games.

What a terrific game this was, full of big plays and major momentum swings. West Virginia's secondary, missing starters Sidney Glover (knee) and Brandon Hogan (personal), had no answer for Tar Heels receiver Hakeem Nicks early on as Nicks had three first-half touchdown catches. The defense, though, came up with three crucial fourth-quarter plays. First, there was a strip of North Carolina running back Shaun Draughn when the Tar Heels had driven to the WVU 30-yard-line. On the next UNC possession, John Holmes sacked quarterback T.J. Yates to force a punt. And Pat Lazear sealed the win by intercepting Yates on North Carolina's final offensive snap.

Bill Stewart improved to 2-0 in bowl games as West Virginia's head coach, and the Big East got its second win in as many tries this postseason. But the most important development for the Mountaineers might have been the way the passing game clicked.

All year, White and his receiving corps struggled to find consistency in the team's new offensive schemes. In this game, the wideouts ran precise routes and made catches, while White threw lasers against a good North Carolina secondary. It took all season, but the offense finally seemed to grasp the new wrinkles installed by offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen, and even fullbacks and tight ends got involved. Virtually all of the receiving corps returns next year, as does most of the defense.

Of course, Pat White won't be back in a blue and gold uniform. As he proved again in this game, he's as irreplaceable as any player in college football. I should have known better than to pick against him.