As a way of combating the off-season doldrums we'll be presenting Throwback Thursday here at the Smoking Musket, a feature where we remember Mountaineer Moments from the past. In this edition of Throwback Thursday we look back at the first meeting between West Virginia and Louisville as Big East Conference foes, starting the fire of a rivalry that brought the national spotlight to the new look Big East. Oh yeah, two guys named White and Slaton did some things as well.
It was 2005, and college football had changed. The ACC had raided the Big East (for the first time) and the conference had, for the most part, been left for dead. Gone were the marquee names of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. In their place came the new comers from Conference USA: Louisville, Cincinnati, and South Florida.
The Cardinals brought a preseason Top 15 team to their new league, and were the favorites to win their first BCS bid against their competition of left-behinds from the ACC raid. Early on, they looked completely dominant at home, but struggled on the road, winning a tight one against their rivals from Lexington and losing in a shocking 45-14 blowout at Raymond James Stadium to the USF Bulls (who got kind of used to this role of "that guy who would punch you in the kidney at precisely the wrong time" over their years in the Big East). They came into Morgantown with a record of 4-2, but a win would keep them on track for the prize of a league title.
The Mountaineers were trying to figure out who they were in the wake of the departure of Rasheed Marshall. They won the games they should have won and lost the game they should have lost, all the while looking wholly unimpressive and without a full-time quarterback as Adam Bednarik and some guy named Patrick White fought it out for the job. West Virginia entered the game at 5-1, but the 4-2 Cards were still the favorite.
They looked the part early. The Cards jumped to a 24-7 lead and held Rich Rodriguez's Zone Read offense to 56 total yards in the first half. Louisville was led by great efforts from Quarterback Brian Brohm and RB Michael Bush and held that 24-7 as the clock ticked down to around the eight minute mark in the fourth quarter, and the situation looked bleak for the Mountaineers.
And then, the legend of Super Steve began as he would eviscerate Louisville to the tune of 188 yards and five TDs on the ground and another from the arm of Adam Bednarik. West Virginia scored three times in the final 8:16 to somehow send the game into overtime and send the fans that remained at Mountaineer Field into a frenzy.
The craziness kept on coming in overtime, with the 'Eers and Cards trading punches through three overtimes. In the first stanza of the third period, Slaton punched in a one yard TD, and Pat White hit future "The Dark Knight Rises" star Dorrell Jalloh for the two point conversion, giving the home team a 46-38 lead. Louisville's offense answered with a Michael Bush three yard TD, but the game was decided as Brian Brohm dropped back to pass on the two-point conversion attempt and found no one open. He began to scramble, but Safety Eric Wicks made the tackle, sealing the stunning 46-44 comeback win for the good guys.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Mountaineers moved to 6-1 and never looked back. They used the momentum to steamroll the rest of their Big East competition (with the closest game coming against USF after the league title had already been sealed) and went down to Atlanta and had what could be considered the program's defining moment as they shocked the SEC Champion Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl. The duo of White and Slaton would never look back, either, as this game began their ascent atop the WVU record books that would continue through until 2007.
One Last Look Back: