Rutgers is bracing for rival's 1-2 punch

West Virginia's Pat White drops back to pass against Mississippi State, while Steve Slaton searches for someone to block. They are "just special" and have a "rare kind" of talent, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano says.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Rutgers has seen little of West Virginia quarterback Pat White, who makes up an outstanding one-two punch with tailback Steve Slaton.

White was a work in progress in 2005, playing just a few downs against the Scarlet Knights, and was injured when the teams met last year.

The Knights have, however, seen more than enough of Slaton.

The Conwell-Egan graduate had his collegiate coming-out party in Piscataway two years ago, rushing for 139 yards and a touchdown. Last year, he rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns as the Mountaineers beat the Knights for the 12th consecutive time and denied them a trip to the Orange Bowl.

Tomorrow at Rutgers Stadium, it should be another healthy dose of Slaton, with a side order of White, when West Virginia, ranked sixth, meets the 25th-ranked Knights. The Mountaineers are 6-1 overall and 1-1 in the Big East, while Rutgers is 5-2 and 2-1.

"I think Steve has been a great back since I saw him here two years ago," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "He can do it all.

"I think he's feeling better this year; he played all last year with a wrist injury. He's a spectacular football player. He and Pat White are just special, rare kind of talents."

Slaton's wrist problem started late in his freshman year and continued through last season. He finally had surgery that limited his participation at spring practice but helped in the long run.

The junior from Levittown has rushed for 752 yards and 10 touchdowns this year, averaging 107.4 yards per game and 5.6 per rush. He also has caught 16 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown.

Like Rutgers' Ray Rice, Slaton entered the year with a lot of expectations and has been unaffected by the pressure.

"He's played well - he was our player of the game last week," Mountaineers coach Rich Rodriguez said, referring to Slaton's 127-yard effort against Mississippi State.

"He's handled all the hype and the attention pretty well," Rodriguez said. "It was like that last year for him and Patrick, too, and it didn't change who they were or how they approached things, or how they worked. I've been proud of how he's handled his success.

"He's healthier now than he's ever been. I think he's playing pretty good football. His numbers may not be as high because he hasn't had as many carries and a lot of teams obviously focus on him, but I think he's a better football player than he was a year ago and I think he's going to continue to get better."