White, Devine lead WVa past Auburn
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia quarterback Pat White never lost his focus.
After two early interceptions helped Auburn take a double-digit lead, White put aside the mistakes to throw three touchdown passes. Noel Devine continued his strong season with a career-high 207 yards and the Mountaineers beat the Tigers 34-17 on Thursday night.
“It made me mad,” White said of his first-quarter picks. “I don’t know if it flustered me. You’ve got to take the good with the bad.”
The bad quickly came for Auburn, which looked strong early behind quarterback Kodi Burns but fell into old habits on both sides of the ball.
The Tigers (4-4) gave up the game’s final 31 points, the offense managed just 33 second-half yards and were shut out over the final 40 minutes.
“It’s very difficult to watch them score like that,” said Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes. “We’ve got to get better defensively.”
With a three-game losing streak and tough schedule in the final month of the season, including games with No. 9 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama, the fading Tigers are in need of a turnaround to avoid their first losing record since 1999, coach Tommy Tuberville’s first season.
Auburn ran into a West Virginia team that had struggled on offense over the past month but put together its highest point total since a season-opening 48-21 win over Villanova. The Tigers had the nation’s ninth-best scoring defense but allowed a season high for points.
“It’s frustrating,” Tuberville said. “They are the best team we’ve played. We just didn’t have an answer the second half.”
West Virginia (5-2) has won four straight entering the heart of the Big East schedule, which includes a game at Connecticut on Nov. 1.
“Now people can see we are on a roll,” said West Virginia wide receiver Dorrell Jalloh, who caught two TD passes from White.
White, an Alabama native playing his first full game in a month following head and hand injuries, found Alric Arnett with a 44-yard scoring pass — West Virginia’s longest pass play of the season — midway through the second quarter to start its comeback from a 17-3 deficit.
“I tried to give it away early, but my teammates — offensively, defensively and on special teams — all hung in there for me,” White said. “We felt we could put points on the board and we did.”
Jalloh caught White’s other two scoring tosses. His 2-yard catch put West Virginia ahead to stay late in the third. On his second, Jalloh shed the grasp of defender Zac Etheridge, turned around without breaking stride, sidestepped Walter McFadden and scored from 32 yards out early in the fourth quarter to make it 27-17.
Devine completed the scoring with a 30-yard TD run late in the game. He surpassed a 188-yard effort in an Oct. 11 win over Syracuse and has four 100-yard efforts this season.
“Pat White and Noel Devine had great speed,” Tuberville said. “We couldn’t stop the run with the four-man front. We couldn’t tackle. Then we started blitzing and turned some receivers open.”
Auburn made a rare trip far to the north for its first nonconference road game since 2003. The crisp fall night hardly threw off the warm-weather Tigers. In fact, it was West Virginia that looked out of place early.
White entered the game completing 73 percent of his passes and had thrown just one interception all season, but was picked off on West Virginia’s first two series. Burns threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score after White’s interceptions but couldn’t keep the early momentum going.
White was held to a season-low eight yards rushing but more than made up for it with his arm. He finished 13-of-21 for 174 yards and now has 12 TD passes this season, just two shy of his total for all of last season.
“Pat White is a perfectionist,” said West Virginia coach Bill Stewart. “I saw confidence oozing out of everyone tonight.”