Football, Sports, WVU Sports

On This Day: WVU squeaks by North Carolina in 2008 Car Care Bowl

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — 15 years ago to the day, Pat White ended his historic West Virginia career with his fourth bowl victory as the Mountaineers’ starting quarterback, a dramatic 31-30 win over North Carolina in the then-named Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Today, West Virginia faces the same opponent, with the same records, at the same location in the same bowl game, albeit with a new name.

In 2008, the 8-4 Mountaineers met the 8-4 Tar Heels in what would be the final game of White’s college career. It was a fitting finale, too, as White, the most prolific running quarterback in college football history up to that point, had the best passing day of his career.

White threw for a career-high 332 yards, including the game-winning 20-yard touchdown to Alric Arnett midway through the fourth quarter.

“Knowing that this is the last time I’m going to put on this uniform, I definitely wanted to go out on top,” White said after the game. “We accomplished that.”

It took a great performance for WVU to beat out future NFL receiver Hakeem Nicks, who caught eight passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns.

UNC quarterback T.J. Yates’ otherwise strong game was marred when he was intercepted by Pat Lazear with under two minutes left.

White completed 26 of 32 passes with three touchdowns, one interception, and a clutch fourth-quarter drive.

After West Virginia’s J.T. Thomas recovered Shaun Draughn’s fumble at the Mountaineers’ 30, White threw a 41-yard pass over the middle to Jock Sanders, picked up nine yards on a running play and then rifled a pass between two defenders to Arnett for the go-ahead touchdown with 7:14 left.

“He was on target on everything,” Arnett said. “That’s thte type of player he is. He’s going to make a play with his arm or with his legs.”

The Mountaineers were missing starting defensive backs Brandon Hogan and Sidney Glover to injuries and illness. The 6-foot-1 Nicks, playing in his hometown, responded by setting three school receiving records and shattering his career-high in yards receiving — before the game was 20 minutes old. It was part of a dizzying offensive display by both teams that had six touchdowns on the board with 10:37 left in the second quarter.

White completed 14 of his first 15 passes and threw two first-half touchdowns, including a remarkable one-handed grab by Arnett for a 44-yard score. But White was intercepted in the end zone at the end of the first half by Deunta Williams, who had earlier tackled Noel Devine in the end zone for a safety.

With the victory, White became the first quarterback in the history of college football to start and win four bowl games, a feat that has still not been matched since. White was named MVP of the Car Care Bowl, the third straight year he took home bowl MVP honors.

“I’m sitting by the greatest winner in college football today,” then-West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said of White. “He’s the greatest to ever wear the old gold and blue. It’s a fitting tribute that this man’s the MVP.”

While there are many similarities between the 2023 Duke’s Mayo Bowl and the 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl, the one key difference is that the teams are playing opposite roles.

Despite winning the bowl to finish 9-4, Stewart’s first season as WVU head coach was widely seen as a disappointment.

“Half those people out there in the old gold and blue, they all love (White),” Stewart said. “But half of them would like to hang me…But I’m not mad. They have such a passion in West Virginia. All they want us to do is be the best.”

North Carolina’s 8-5 finish, on the other hand, was seen as a successful turnaround campaign in coach Butch Davis’ second season.

In 2023, it’s the Tar Heels (8-4, 4-4 ACC) who are feeling disappointment. After starting the year 6-0 with one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Drake Maye, UNC went 2-4 in the second half of the season.

WVU (8-4, 6-3), meanwhile, is enjoying a turnaround season in Neal Brown’s fifth year at the helm.