"Pat White had one move that he really loved when he carried the ball and that was a jab step outside before he'd cut it up inside," Rhoads said. "We prepared for it hard and we prepared to take the ball out of his hands. Whether he was outside or not, he was going to be giving. He was not going to be keeping."
His reputation growing, Rhoads left Pitt to be Auburn's defensive coordinator the next season and was named the Cyclones' head coach in 2009. He hired another WVU adversary as his defensive coordinator. Wally Burnham had been USF's defensive coordinator and took both great joy in stopping WVU's option offense and great offense to the Mountaineers wearing Yankees caps to the game at USF in 2006.
"Wally was brought in because he defended West Virginia so well," Rhoads said. "Not because we were going to be playing West Virginia, but because there are so many spread offenses in the Big 12. Competing against him and knowing the success he had against spread offenses, namely West Virginia's, was the reason he was the guy I wanted to talk to."
That's just a part of a spanning change that began with the 2007 game. The LSU team that took WVU's spot in the national championship and won the game was coached by Michigan graduate Les Miles. He couldn't involve himself as the Wolverines looked for a coach because he was preparing for Ohio State.
Without a national championship game anchoring him to WVU, Coach Rich Rodriguez left for Michigan.
Bill Stewart succeeded Rodriguez, though first as an interim coach for the Fiesta Bowl. He adjusted the offense to his liking and led the Mountaineers past Oklahoma and offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin, who had already been named the head coach at the University of Houston. When Sumlin was building his staff, he hired a Texas Tech assistant and asked that coach to run his offense, but to do it as fast as Sumlin had seen WVU work in the Fiesta Bowl.
That Texas Tech assistant coach happened to be Dana Holgorsen, who turned his successful run at Houston into the offensive coordinator's spot at Oklahoma State. He now coaches the Mountaineers and his familiarity with the conference is one reason WVU is expected to compete for the conference title this season.
"I think Coach Rodriguez was a bigger part of that equation than Pitt or what happened in that particular victory that night for the Panthers," Rhoads said. "But, yeah, without a doubt, there was a ripple effect."
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BIG 12 CONFERENCE Commissioner Bob Bowlsby expects to know and announce more about the so-called Champions Bowl, which is the working title for the annual matchup of the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference champions.
The two will jointly send out a Request for Proposals next month to find a venue. Bowlsby said he believes the game will end up within the current bowl structure. The leagues are also deep into plans for televising the game and plan to have it on New Year's Day and in primetime after the Rose Bowl.
"I think the Champions Bowl put us on a par with the Rose Bowl, the long tradition that the Big Ten and the Pac-12 have had in that bowl," Bowlsby said. "That's what we want the Champions Bowl to become, and I think we have a great chance to do that.
He deflected a suggestion the four-team playoff, which was approved after the Champions Bowl was conceived, will claim one or both of the conference champions and thus devalue the game.
"There are going to be years when our champion is not in the top four and we'll play in those years a great opponent in the Champions Bowl," he said. "In those years when we move up and out of it and the semifinals are someplace else, we're going to move one of our own teams up into it. Our runner-up in the Big 12 and a runner-up in the SEC is still pretty darned good football game. "
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.