Honorable mention: Skyler Howard vs Arizona State - 28/51, 532 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT - January 2, 2016; Kay-Jay Harris vs East Carolina - 25 carries, 337 yards, 4 TD - September 4, 2004; Steve Slaton and Noel Devine vs Maryland - 31 carries, 273 yards, 3 TD - September 13, 2007
10) Pat White vs North Carolina - December 27, 2008
It was actually really hard to distinguish this one from the three honorable mentions, but I gave Pat the nod, what with him being arguably the best player in the history of the program and everything. Pat had better days running the ball (21 carries for just 55 yards) but probably never threw it better, completing 26 of his 32 passes for a career-high 332 yards and 3 TDs. 2008 was his swan song season and watching him will us to that win, to solidify a 4-0 career bowl record, was the perfect sendoff; the icing on top of a delicious career.
9) Steve Slaton vs Louisville, October 15, 2005
This was the coming out party; the first time we’d really get a glimpse of what West Virginia football was about to become. Most of you know the story by now: West Virginia was trailing Louisville 24-7 with about 9 minutes left when Steve just turned it on and never looked back, rallying the Mountaineers to an improbable 46-44 3OT victory. Slaton carried 31 times for 188 yards and 5 scores while also catching 3 passes for 20 yards and another score. The first great performance from an all-timer.
8) Justin Crawford vs Oklahoma - November 27, 2016
Our most recent entry to the list happened just last year. I won't talk much about the game here because it was one of the all-time letdowns, but Crawford's 331 electric yards gave Mountaineer fans a tiny flicker of something good to hold onto as we somberly ambled out of the stadium.
7) Kevin White vs Baylor - October 18, 2014
Some of you might be surprised to see this one on here. Those of you who are weren't paying attention. This was our “Beat Somebody We Shouldn’t” game from 2014, and we pulled it off thanks in large part to the efforts of one Kevin White.
White may have had better statistical performances in his time here (though 8 catches for 132 yards and 2 scores is plenty impressive), but I don’t ever recall him feeling as unguardable as he was on that glorious October evening. Baylor corner Xavien Howard probably still wakes up in the middle of the night trembling and thinking about what Kev did to him that night. In addition to the measurables, White also drew 6 penalties (5 PI's and 1 facemask, all on Howard), including one PI that was actually waved off cuz he went straight savage and one-handed it for a touchdown anyways. I remember cackling like a maniac at one point after back to back interference calls, because like poor Mr. Howard, I realized there was simply nothing else they could do.
6) Pat White vs Syracuse - October 14, 2006
This was an otherwise routine midseason game against an outclassed Syracuse squad. What made it special was that it was Pat's breakout game as a true superstar. He only completed 12 of his 19 passes for a 99 yards, but ran it 15 times for a ridiculous 247 yards and touchdowns of 69, 40, 32, and 12 yards. For some reason I couldn't find any highlights, but enough of those plays made it into the video below that you'll get the idea. Dude made a bunch of self-respecting D1 athletes look like children that day.
5) Geno Smith and Tavon Austin vs Clemson - January 4, 2012
This was the whipping that many a Clemson fan will admit spurred their program to the 2017 National Championship. Funny, I don't remember getting a thank you.
The Mountaineers set several bowl records (TDs in a game, points in a game, points in a half, points in a quarter) on their way to a 70-33 win, with most of the damage coming during that 35-point 2nd quarter explosion where Geno and Tavon punched in 3 TDs between them to effectively KO the Tigers and end the game. In total Smith completed 32/43 passes for 407 yards and 6 touchdowns, while also scampering for 26 yards and a score (those 7 TDs are also a record). Tavon caught 12 balls for 123 yards and 4 touchdowns (tied for most ever in a BCS game), ran 3 times for 40 yards, and returned 5 kicks for 125 yards. All in all not a bad night, and it kicked off 10 of the most exciting months in the history of the program.
4) Steve Slaton vs Georgia - January 2, 2006
I remember Georgia safety Greg Blue saying something before this game about how the Dawgs were going to introduce our youngsters to SEC speed. Other things I remember about this game: I remember Steve's first TD, a glorious 52-yard scamper, and how I tried to rip my seat out of the Georgia Dome immediately afterwards. I don’t remember why, but I do remember that it seemed like a good idea at the time. I remember Steve’s second TD, and how I stared at the scoreboard in a state of borderline disbelief, struggling to process what I was seeing. I remember Steve’s third TD too, and how the ensuing celebration was perhaps as close as I have ever come to truly losing my mind. I remember the steady, uncontrollable stream of expletives flying out of my mouth while my buddy and I tackled each other, because other words simply didn’t seem to make sense, and I remember how we eventually gathered ourselves enough to remember to look around the pro-Georgia section that we were sitting in so that we could soak everything in. I can't be sure, but I'd imagine I had a rather large smile on my face.
When it was all said and done we'd held on for a 38-35 win, and the country knew that West Virginia football was for real. Slaton's 204 yards and 3 touchdowns led the way, and you can still find his name in the record books for racking up the most rushing yards in Sugar Bowl history. You can find Greg Blue in the video below with his pants around his ankles at the 2:17 mark.
3) Pat White and Steve Slaton at Pitt - November 11, 2006
The 2005 Backyard Brawl produced the "run faster" gem from then-Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt. The 2006 edition at Heinz Field didn't go much better.
Pat went 11/16 for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns and ran it 22 times for 220 yards and another 2 scores, becoming only the 9th player in college football history to run and throw for over 200 yards in a game. He and Slaton also became just the third tandem in NCAA history to eclipse the 200-yard mark in a single game, with the latter carrying 23 times for 215 yards and 2 scores and catching 6 of those passes for 130 yards and two scores.
This was just about as good as it got with those two; one of the highest highs in a beautiful golden era of highs. I was there to witness it live, and the fact that it was in their house just made it that much sweeter.
2) Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey, and Tavon Austin vs Baylor - September 29, 2012
West Virginia's inaugural Big XII campaign didn't end the way we'd have liked, but it sure as hell started with a bang. Nothing like dropping a 70-spot to introduce yourself to your new neighbors, right? This game was obviously riddled with incredible performances from both teams, but Geno, Stedman, and Tavon stood out above the rest.
I’ll just give you a quick rundown of the numbers: Geno went 45/51 for 656 yards and a mind-numbing 8 touchdowns, and through 4 games had 20 touchdowns to just 19 incompletions. Stedman caught 13 of those balls for 303 yards and 5 scores. Tavon caught 14 for 215 yards and 3 more scores. Most of those numbers are still school records (and probably will be for a long time); video games are more realistic.
1) Tavon Austin vs Oklahoma - November 17, 2012
If you didn't know coming into this what #1 would be, I don't know what to tell you. It's unfortunate that it came in a loss, but nobody who witnessed it will ever forget how good Tavon was that night. 21 carries, 344 yards, 2 touchdowns. 4 catches, 82 yards. 8 kick returns, 146 yards. Words don't really do it justice, so I'll just leave you with this..
See you next Sunday!