MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) – West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez usually waits until after the regular season to start handing out individual accolades. He’s making an exception for quarterback Pat White.

White surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season, gaining 186 yards and scoring twice in No. 4 West Virginia’s 66-21 win over No. 20 Connecticut on Saturday night.

And with White’s fourth-straight 100-yard effort, Rodriguez believes he deserves the same national attention the Mountaineers are enjoying.

“I’m biased. I think he is the best football player in the country,” Rodriguez said. “Pat has done it his entire career.”

White, a junior, has 1,144 yards and 14 rushing TDs this season, along with 1,498 yards passing, and is creeping up alongside others in the wide-open Heisman Trophy race. White is 25-3 as a starter.

Teammate Steve Slaton finished fourth in the Heisman race last season, but White has carried the team in the last month.

White and Slaton became only the third pair of teammates in the Football Bowl Subdivision to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in consecutive seasons.

White had a 3-yard TD run in the first quarter and made several defenders miss when he reversed direction and scored on a 24-yard run in the third quarter for a 31-14 lead.

“When plays aren’t there he makes us plays. When plays are there he makes them even better,” Rodriguez said. “He was the Big East player of the year last year and he is better this season. He is one of the best that has ever played for West Virginia and he is not done yet.”

White already has a big fan on the opposing sidelines in UConn coach Randy Edsall.

“I’m not going to say there’s anybody better than Pat White,” Edsall said. “I think he’s the best player in college football. He has my vote.”

White helped the Mountaineers clinch the Big East title and a berth in the Bowl Championship Series against UConn.

To keep his Heisman hopes alive, White must put together another stellar performance next Saturday against Pittsburgh. A win could put the Mountaineers in the national championship game on Jan. 7 in New Orleans.

White’s only focus is on the annual Backyard Brawl at home. Against Pittsburgh last year he ran for 220 yards and threw for 204 more in a 45-27 win.

“It’s the biggest game in my lifetime,” White said. “I don’t think it will be tough to be focused. This team is focused. We were today, and it will carry into next week. We will be ready.”

West Virginia cornerback Vaughn Rivers, a Pittsburgh native, said the atmosphere will be electric in the 100th version of the series between the schools 75 miles apart.

“Knowing our national championship chances are on the line you don’t have to worry about us showing up to play,” Rivers said. “I could not have written the story better – my last game at Mountaineer Field against my hometown team with a chance to go to the national championship.”

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