Tears still welling in his eyes long afterward, Patrick White hurt worse yesterday than a year earlier. Worse even than the Backyard Brawl knockout blow to the chin that cost West Virginia a national championship chance, a head coach, everything.
All because he felt this loss fell on him.
"I've been bawling my eyes out," West Virginia's fifth-year senior quarterback said after a 19-15 loss to Pitt at Heinz Field. "I felt I gave it away. We played good enough to get a 'W,' but ... I felt my mistakes hurt us, those two picks at the end."
Division I-A's all-time rushing quarterback and, as of yesterday, the Big East Conference's all-time total offense leader made two errant throws in final 14:10. An efficient passer with four interceptions all season, and half of those coming in the Auburn first quarter, White tossed the football twice to Pitt in the fourth quarter. It marked only his fifth career multiple-interception game and fourth as a West Virginia starter.
The second play of the fourth quarter, on a second-and-16, White heaved a 36-yard pass for Alric Arnett. It went beyond the intended target, then nestled over the shoulder and into the open arms of Pitt safety Dom DeCicco before he stepped out of bounds.
Seven Mountaineers plays later, with roughly eight minutes left and nursing a 15-7 advantage against a Pitt team barely moving the ball (18 snaps for 47 yards since halftime), White forced a pass to Dorrell Jalloh. Or was it to Pitt cornerback Jovani Chappel?
"Guess it looked like he was on my team, huh?" White tried to joke. "Crunch time, at the end of the game, a dumb play like that a veteran quarterback shouldn't make."
This from a veteran with only one other fourth-quarter interception all year, in the Cincinnati loss, and with only 20 career interceptions in his 47-game career.
The thing is, that's precisely what Pitt wanted: White cocking to pass.
"Ohhh, definitely," Pitt cornerback Aaron Berry said. "We want him throwing the ball, even though he can make plays [that way]. I think teams are pretty much successful when West Virginia is in a throwing situation. Force them to throw the ball, it's pretty big."
West Virginia offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen tried to stem any criticism about failing to run White more often. After all, six days earlier, White surpassed the previous Division I-A career mark for quarterback rushing yards. He rushed for 93 yards on 12 carries, but, after his 54-yard, cutback jaunt for a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter, White effectively was shut down for the game. He ran once more in the third quarter, for 6 yards. He ran twice in their 21 snaps in the fourth quarter, for 2 yards.
Mullen maintained that the Mountaineers (7-4, 4-2 Big East) entered yesterday with its usual 10-12 pre-designed run plays for White, and used them all. Pitt (8-3, 4-2) had a lot to do with that, though. "After the first play, when he pulled it and took off, I think they had enough of that," Mullen added.
So the quarterback who bolted for 220 yards in each of his freshman and sophomore season games against Pitt, West Virginia victories and 45 points apiece, was reduced to 41 yards and 93 yards rushing in his final two Backyard Brawls. The vaunted Mountaineers offense scored just two touchdowns in its past eight Brawl quarters.
Should coaches have run White more often? Should he have been given chances to run more to the wide side of the field, such as the third-and-goal trick play late in the second quarter? That's when he took the hand-off from Jarrett Brown and rolled left to the short side for a high-ball throw to Woodland Hills' Wes Lyons, who caught it out of bounds.
"If 'if' were a fifth [of liquor], we'd all be drunk," White tried to joke.
"You just can't knock Pat for that," receiver Jock Sanders said. "He had a great game."
"I feel like it was personally my fault," continued White, who finished 15 of 28 for 143 yards passing -- passing Syracuse's Donovan McNabb for the Big East total-offense lead -- and had an end-zone pass slip through Jalloh's fingers on their first second-half possession. The corners of his eyes were still wet.
"It hurts, as you can see."
Chuck Finder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .