White leads Mountaineers to Fiesta Bowl win

West Virginia wide receiver Darius Reynaud (2) dives into the end zone for a touchdown over Oklahoma's Curtis Lofton in the second half of the Fiesta Bowl Wednesday in Glendale, Ariz. <i>Associated Press</i>

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Bill Stewart didn't have to lobby to become West Virginia's next coach.

Led by elusive quarterback Pat White, the 11th-ranked Mountaineers gave him a resounding endorsement in a 48-28 Fiesta Bowl victory over No. 3 Oklahoma on Wednesday night. Stewart served as interim replacement for Rich Rodriguez, who bolted for Michigan last month.

"They gave me my marching orders to get this team ready, and that's what we did," Stewart said.

Stewart later said he'd "cherish" the job but would support whomever the university hires.

His players say it should be Stewart. White, who ran for 150 yards and threw for 176 and two touchdowns in a 48-28 victory, began stumping for Stewart on the field after the game.

"He deserves it," White said. "A great man. A great coach. All the players respect him and all the players love him. You couldn't ask for a better man to lead us to victory today."

Fullback Owen Schmitt, who scored on a 57-yard run called Stewart the "glue" that kept the Mountaineers together during a rocky month.

"We're a family," Schmitt said. "That's why we prevailed."

An emotional Stewart relished what he called "a colossal win for our program."

"I never had a Gatorade bath," said Stewart, a native West Virginian who has been an assistant for most of his career. "It was special."

The Mountaineers didn't need Rodriguez. They had White, a relentless defense and a rushing attack that raced for 349 yards, most allowed by Oklahoma in a bowl game.

Since arriving in the desert last week, the Mountaineers (11-2) said they had bonded behind Stewart. And they vowed to rebound from a 13-9 loss to Pitt that knocked them out of the Bowl Championship Series title game.

The Mountaineers were right on both counts, turning in an emotional effort and overcoming the loss of star tailback Steve Slaton to a first-quarter leg injury.

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