West Virginia owns a five-game winning streak and an Associated Press No. 20 ranking after a six-week poll hiatus, and coach Bill Stewart is none too giddy about either.
He delivered a message to all pollsters, including his fellow coaches who placed the Mountaineers at No. 23 in their latest survey: Forget West Virginia.
"I don't want to hear anything about" a return to the rankings, Stewart said yesterday, the day after his bowl-eligible and league-leading Mountaineers (6-2, 3-0 Big East) dropped host Connecticut, 35-13, and started preparations for third-place Cincinnati (6-2, 2-1) at home Saturday.
"[A ranking], that's where all our trouble started. That's the worst thing that can happen to Mountaineer football right now. I'd tell every pollster, 'Wait until Game 12, and then you can rank us.'
• Game: West Virginia (6-2) vs. Cincinnati (6-2), 7 p.m., Saturday.
• Where: Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, W.Va.
• TV: ESPNU.
"We were ranked all right -- we were rank."
The Mountaineers failed to show they deserved a No. 8 spot when, well, they failed to show at East Carolina and lost by three touchdowns. Down to No. 25 a week later, they displayed slight progress but lost in overtime at Colorado. East Carolina is 2-3 since, Colorado 1-5. And Stewart figures West Virginia still isn't quite where it should be.
"I want to go in and dominate," Stewart said. "I'm tired of waiting. What game was that...eight? I'm very impatient. We need to execute like the team we're capable of. We need to hit on all cylinders, and we need to do it consistently.
"We need to go get the ball. [In the first half at Connecticut,] we were stumbling, bumbling, arms flailing in the air, running into each other. I don't think they had very good sense on ball judgment. Offensively... we just need to make hay.
"We've just got to get a little better, that's all."
Somehow, his wheels came off. Patrick White, close to becoming the all-time leading rusher in the history of major-college quarterbacks, suddenly wasn't motoring downfield as often as in past years. Three consecutive games of just 11 rushes. An average of barely 13 carries each game. He was going nowhere, for him.
He started Saturday with six times as many passing touchdowns (12) as rushing (two).
"I didn't know I had any," White said, grinning.
He matched his season total in one reminiscent Saturday, 109 yards on 21 carries that constituted his most in 10 games. "We just put the ball in [No.] 5's hands," said Stewart.
This marked White's second 100-yard rushing day of the season, after a 148-yard, two-touchdown showing in overtime at Colorado four games earlier. He habitually is a slow starter on the ground, though: He had no 100-yard days through the first five games of his sophomore season and just one in the first seven last fall. But three starts in a row without a rushing touchdown and five of six this year? For a fleet-footed guy who never before had more than back-to-back starts in a season without one?
He scored on a third-and-goal scramble from the Connecticut 24 to open West Virginia's rally from a 10-0 deficit and on a 36-yard run from the pocket to close the game's scoring.
"Pat White has the ability to score at literally any time," said Huskies defensive lineman Rob Lunn, who recently blogged about the power of West Virginia's offense.
White surpassed 4,000 career yards rushing and stands 239 yards behind Missouri's Brad Smith in all-time Division I-A quarterback rushing. His two scores rushing and one passing surpassed Miami's Ken Dorsey for Big East second all time with 91 combined career touchdowns, second to Syracuse's Donovan McNabb with 96.
On special teams, Stewart said Courtney Stuart (sprained knee) is out indefinitely and Archie Sims temporarily. He added that special-teams ace Jim Lewis (foot) might return to practice this week after a five-game absence, but may not play until Nov. 22 at Louisville. "I may move a few people around," said the head coach, who doubles as special-teams coach. ... Pat McAfee had his lowest punting average in 14 games (41.1 yards), and West Virginia allowed its third-most kickoff return yards this fall (161 on six kicks the game after 172 on four to Auburn) -- a category in which it ranks last among 119 major-college teams. ... Cornerback Brandon Hogan, beaten on a dropped sure-touchdown pass by Connecticut's Kashif Moore, had two interceptions and recovered a fumble. ... West Virginia has won 39 of its past 46 games and 54 of 66.
Chuck Finder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published November 3, 2008 5:00 AM