| | West Virginia Hopes To Build Off Great 2005 Season
West Virginia is virtually assured of taking a spot in the Top 10 of the final college football poll, and that is something the Mountaineers haven't done in more than a decade.
The Mountaineers got an eye opening 38-35 win over No. 8 Georgia on Monday night in the Sugar Bowl. "Maybe people will give us a little respect," fullback Owen Schmitt said.
Besides Georgia, four other teams ranked ahead of West Virginia lost in bowl games: No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 6 Oregon, No. 7 Auburn and No. 9 Miami.
Coach Rich Rodriguez said, "Every year is a new year. Sometimes there's too much put into what the team has coming back," he said. "I think we maybe proved that a little bit this year."
This year quarterback Adam Bednarik and a group of running backs got West Virginia off to a 4-0 start. Late in the season though it was White and Slaton with Schmitt thrown in for good measure.
"Our guys didn't panic when Pat White, Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt got in there. They were having fun," Rodriguez said. "I think that was kind of neat and it rubbed off on everybody.
"It's a good lesson even for us coaches. This is still a game. It's a game played by 18-, 19- and 20-year olds. It's just on a big stage, so I want them to have fun with it. It's easier to have fun when you're winning, obviously."
Slaton finished the season with 1,128 yards in just 10 games and led all freshmen in the country with 19 touchdowns. The offense returns its productive backfield next season but must find two new starting linemen, while the defense has huge losses in the secondary.
The defense must replace four of five starters in the secondary, including safeties Mike Lorello and Jahmile Addae, who combined for 75 starts.
"We've just got to keep humble," Schmitt said. "We're just going to look at it as everyone's 0-0 next season.
"This season's over with. We're going to celebrate. In a couple of weeks, we'll get back into it and start all over again."